Kindle Ads: The Amazon Bait & Switch

Nowhere in the promotional messaging yesterday for the new “Kindle Family” of tablets did Amazon mention the fact that Amazon “Special Offers” and full-color “Sponsored Screensavers” (read: ads) will show up on the lockscreen. This program was initiated originally to bring down the price of the entry level Kindle eReader, which costs $69 today.

Purchasers of those devices were given the opportunity to buy out of the ads by paying the difference in price between the ad-supported and non ad-supported version of the Kindle. However yesterday we learned that all the new Kindle tablets will feature these ads on their lockscreens as well — all of them.

Earlier today it was reported by Engadget that there would be a way to buy out. However Amazon issued a statement to CNET in which it both confirmed the presence of the ads and said there would be no option to remove them.

The devices are generally impressive but their pricing is the thing that really gets attention. I wrote about this yesterday.

It turns out that part of the reason Amazon can price these devices so aggressively is because that pricing is apparently being subsidized by advertising. (Another reason may be a Microsoft default search deal.) That’s fine if it’s clearly disclosed and people can make a conscious decision about purchasing a device with advertising on the lockscreen. It’s even better if they have a way to opt-out of the ad clutter.

There were many thousands of people, undoubtedly, who pre-ordered one or more of these devices (based on their prices and features) yesterday. Amazon is running an email campaign encouraging pre-orders.

Special Offers and Sponsored Screensavers are mentioned on the individual device product pages in the list of features bullets: “Includes special offers and sponsored screensavers.” But most people will likely not notice or gloss over this information.

To me that constitutes a kind of “bait & switch” by Amazon. I hope the company is shamed into changing the policy.

Related Topics: Amazon | Channel: Retail | Mobile Marketing | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog Screenwerk, about SoLoMo issues and connecting the dots between online and offline. He also posts at Internet2Go, which is focused on the mobile Internet. Follow him @gsterling.

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  • Jeff McNeill

    Quit whining. This is the Amazon ecosystem. If you prefer to pay a lot more then buy a competitor offering from Samsung or Apple. Or hack the system and run an alternative operating system installation.

  • Jessica McCready

    If the price is being subsized by advertising then I can see why they do it. People buy Kindle’s cause theyre cheap(er than an iPad) and cool. But locked advertising is uncool. I think they need to find a better way.

  • Chris Elwell

    It was a mistake to try to hide the advertising. Most people won’t care if the device is great and the price lower than others. Give them a yellow card.

  • Gregory Digiovanni

    I think if this were a smaller company this wouldn’t fly. But since this is Amazon, one of the largest properties online, some people will complain then quickly forget about it. I guess that’s one of the perks to being as big as Amazon!

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