A newly surfaced Microsoft patent application proposes to serve ads inside e-books, adjusting their relevance based on the contents of the digital tome, similar to the way search engines deliver ads next to query results. The application for “Providing Contextual Advertisements for Electronic Books” was originally submitted in January 2010 and made public earlier today.
One problem: Employees from Amazon.com, maker of the Kindle, have been seeking patents on a very similar approach since 2007.
Hey, who says there’s anything wrong with the U.S. patent system?
Highlights from the Microsoft patent filing:
- “For instance, the science-fiction e-book may include an advertisement categorized as a science-fiction advertisement (e.g., a light saber discount store advertisement) or may include an advertisement adapted to fit the science-fiction theme (e.g., a fast food restaurant advertisement that includes science-fiction design elements).”
- “For instance, if an e-book is telling a story of a fat king and a skinny queen, an advertisement may portray the advertisement characters as a fat king and a skinny queen.”
- “If the advertisement “gives away” something that is going to happen in the e-book on a subsequent page, it may not be appropriate to present the advertisement on the target page.”
The concept of advertisements inside e-books has been discussed for a while, but hasn’t been broadly adopted. Amazon this year took a small step in that direction by releasing a discount line of Kindles supported by sponsored screensavers and special coupons.