Here?s the thing, you flip through the virtual pages of an e-book and suddenly stumble upon one of those highly-engaging iAds from Apple. According to an analysis published by the Wall Street Journal, dwindling profits are forcing e-publishers to consider embedding advertisements into their iBook releases.

Steve Jobs presents iAd - Mobile Advertising

Steve Jobs presents iAd – Mobile Advertising

Remembering that the Google Books archive already displays adverts next to search results, and that Amazon filed a patent for Kindle adverts, the WSJ piece takes notice of Apple’s recent foray into mobile advertising and paints an interesting picture:

"What would the world look like with ads in books? For consumers, the free samples of digital books now available would surely include ads. Because not every consumer who reads a sample chapter will buy the book, it’s reasonable for the publisher to extract some additional value. Seeing ads in the http://www.geek.com/articles/mobile/apple-could-make-mobileme-free-paid-subscribers-are-scratching-their-heads-20100511/sample may also convince a reader to pay for a premium, non-ad version of the full-length book. The old market segmentation of paperbacks and hardcovers will be replaced by ad-supported or ad-free books."

The Journal’s piece inspired a bunch of speculative reports like this CNET piece describing the aesthetic value of iAds in iBooks and explaining how it might pan out:

"If you flip to page 40 of Jonathan Lethem’s "Chronic City," you may be served an iAd instead of page 41. But don’t worry, it won’t be based on the book you’re reading. The formula is much more complex. And more accurate. The ad you see will have everything to do with your account habits – what you’ve purchased, downloaded, read, and played."

Because iAds are basically HTML5 apps spiced up with rich media, embedding them into digital content is doable – and we’re not talking only e-books, movies, or TV shows. You may not realize it now, but iAds may begin cropping up in the most unlikely places. The platform was originally conceived with mobile software in mind, but it could be tweaked to power free, ad-supported online services [MobileMe comes to mind], desktop applications, and even your operating system.

After all, Apple filed for an ad-supported operating system patent for a reason. Apple’s iOS ecosystem commands more than 100 million devices and the Mac user base counts tens of millions of active users.

The company would be foolish not to monetize those eyeballs and we should have no fear as long as iAd lives to its promise of being an unobtrusive advertising platform done right – especially if it results in a greater number of free or low-cost premium content.