Yahoo's recent patent filings suggest it is entering the e-Book market, a move that will pit it against Amazon, Apple, and other content providers. But given the nature of the patent filings, Yahoo seeks to leap over the competition with a potentially more innovative approach. Yahoo's concepts conform to the Attribute Dependency technique, one of five in the SIT Method. Research shows that new products that conform to one of the five SIT techniques tend to be more successful in the marketplace.*
The first concept calls for a variable pricing approach. The price paid for an e-book varies depending on the amount of advertising the buyer is willing to put up with. The filings suggest that buyers could be offered titles at a variety of prices depending on the ads' prominence. "Greater levels of advertising, which may be more valuable to an advertiser and potentially more distracting to an e-book reader, may warrant higher discounts," it states. Readers might be offered advertisements as hyperlinks based within the book's text or even video.
Position of the ads could vary, too. Like banner ads, boxes on a page could could pop up saying "brought to you by XYZ Company". The more willing the customer is to see the ads, the greater the discount. "Higher frequencies... may even be great enough to allow the e-book to be obtained for free," the filing states.
The second concept calls for variable advertising that depends on the content or context of the text on a particular page. The products shown would vary by the type of book being read, or even the contents of a specific chapter, phrase or word. The inventors suggest that ads could be linked to the mood or emotional state the reader as a they move through the book.
Targeting the ads could take account of previous titles the owner has bought. This is yet another variation on the Attribute Dependency technique.
Attribute Dependency differs from the other templates in that it uses attributes (variables) of the situation rather than components. Start with an attribute list, then construct a 2 x 2 matrix of these, pairing each against the others. Each cell represents a potential dependency (or potential break in an existing dependency) that forms a Virtual Product. Using Function Follows Form, we work backwards and envision a potential benefit or problem that this hypothetical solution solves. In Yahoo's e-Book approach, both advertising and pricing change depending on variable related to the buyer and variables related to the book story.
In reality, these are old ideas that are being embedded by Yahoo in new technology. Both radio and television do the same thing: vary pricing of content and advertising based on buyer variables and content variables. By patenting this in an e-Books, Yahoo may give itself a much needed edge in the competitive landscape.
e-Books will continue to evolve through innovation. We will see creative uses of advertising, but also creative uses of the new medium itself in how authors write stories.
*Goldenberg, Jacob, and David Mazursky. Creativity in Product Innovation. Cambridge, U.K: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Print.