jürgen-snoerenOne view of the future of publishing, which I’ve brought up here a few times, is that publishers need to begin reaching out directly to consumers. On FutureBook, Amsterdam-based publishing exec Jürgen Snoeren disagrees, suggesting that in the rapidly changing publishing environment, publishers need to focus first on their core competency—producing excellent content.

Snoeren points out that publishers can’t hope to beat Amazon at its own game—but Amazon does not seem to have as much of a problem competing with them. When the Kindle was released in Germany, the lack of German content did not seem to hinder Amazon’s sales; it just made German readers buy more English books.

This means, in my view, that we publishers need to go back to what we do best: finding the best authors, obtaining the necessary rights and making this content available in as many channels and formats as possible. Chris Meadows, in an article in Teleread states that publishers should focus on customers, not format, but in my view, that should be the other way around.

Digital reading creates a plethora of new reading moments on different devices that we are in dire need of new formats to service reader’s wishes in trains, on their break, in waiting rooms and whatnot. If we do not create these formats, we will not connect with the reader. Publishers need to make these formats for and – as important or maybe even more so – make these formats known to our readers.

He brings up the Enthrill method of selling e-books in bookstores as an example of this kind of format innovation.

But I do not think there is as much to disagree about as Snoeren seems to. My article didn’t say publishers shouldn’t develop more formats. Quite the opposite: it pointed out publishers need to stop delaying the electronic (and, for that matter, paper) formats readers want in favor of the hardcover format they want to push—or those readers are going to forget about their titles by the time those formats come around.

By all means, let the publishers come out with their content in as many formats as they can. But they should offer them all while consumers are still hot on their books, or it could cost them sales as the fickle reader attention span moves on to other titles.