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.


  1. When I started BooksForABuck.com, I went with 100% direct sales. That was in an earlier, more innocent time. Today, a significant percentage of sales go to customers who don’t step outside of their device gardens–the Kindle, Nook, etc. stores. Although I still offer direct sales, and continue to offer each new book exclusively for its first month of availability (at a significant price discount), direct sales now account for only a few percent of my total sales. I don’t have a problem with publishers who push the direct approach, but for most of us, this isn’t going to be the central strategy.

    As a fan of eBooks, I definitely don’t want to see eBook versions delayed to support hardback sales, but I do recognize that this means we’re likely to face some sort of time-based price ladder (and I certainly agree with many TeleRead commentors who argue that publishers seem quick to set high prices but slow to ratchet down the ladder).

    So, yes, focussing on our core competencies, working with authors to deliver great books in formats people want, and with rights that allow us to address readers wherever they may live, and offering these at prices that readers are willing to pay, through the channels they want to use. I think those are the core to publisher success going forward.

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