Publishers recognise that they are facing a huge discoverability problem. While good quality metadata will never replace hand selling it can be a key to growing sales.
ONIX for books is an international data standard used to communicate descriptive metadata between publishers, data aggregators, wholesalers, and retailers. Descriptive metadata such as the BIC Basic Standard helps customers to make purchasing decisions. BIC research shows that many publishers fail to meet even the most minimal standards of metadata and are not giving their titles a fair chance to succeed in the marketplace.
Pushing up standards
ONIX gives us a framework to make sure that our product information exceeds industry standards. We want to equip our sales team with the latest information whether that’s availability dates, automatically generated connections between related products or previous sales figures. The ONIX system frees up our sales team to spend more time with customers, building relationships and pursuing new business.
Timing is everything
Timing is incredibly important to releasing data if we want it to have the maximum impact. By keeping our metadata in one place with the option to feed out to multiple recipients we can manage seasonal launches and get changes communicated in the fastest way possible. ONIX allows us to launch products into the market as far in advance as we choose while keeping a tight lid on embargoed titles.
Improving our business with greater efficiency
Partial updates within the ONIX system mean that we can deliver tailored feeds without the need for duplicated spreadsheets. If something goes wrong we can track changes and identify errors at the source. We have implemented the international Thema standard alongside our BIC and BISAC codes automatically via a conversion process that is included in most editing software. Across the business ONIX is improving our workflows and upskilling staff with the technical knowledge necessary to disseminate our data effectively.
The ONIX standard itself is Open Source and guidelines and codelists are available at http://www.editeur.org/83/Overview/
The ONIX for Books International Steering Committee meets twice a year at the Frankfurt and London Book Fairs and is responsible for maintaining the standard. There are database management companies available although I would urge you to have somebody that understands the process in house. To this end BIC provides regular training for ONIX users.
There is very little point publishing great books if your customers can’t find them. Good quality metadata is not an optional extra but should underpin everything that we do.
Anna Cunnane is Senior Data Executive at Abrams and Chronicle Books. She graduated with a Distinction from the MA in Publishing at UCL in 2013 and was Chair of the Society of Young Publishers from 2015-2016. She is interested in the intersection between publishing and digital technologies.