Book Industry Wants Better Metadata for Marketing

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By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

Publishers, distributors and e-book retailers can at least agree on one thing: They want more fields to be included in metadata feeds to help market and sell their books.

According to a new report coming out from the Book Industry Study Group on metadata, publishers, distributors, service-providers, retailers and manufacturers want to add 39 new elements of metadata to the core elements most used in ONIX 2.1, the software used by the book industry for organizing and transferring metadata. Most of them had to do with marketing.

“What they really want – publishers in particular, but also retailers and wholesalers – are things that help people discover, assess and buy books,” said Brian O’Leary of digital publishing consultancy Magellan Media, who is authoring the study.

Things like related editions, movie tie-ins, titles and information on other books in a series and greater tracking of industry awards. If properly displayed on book retail sites, these fields could help readers find new books and make better informed decisions on whether they want to buy them.

“Because ONIX has so many fields, data suppliers (publishers) don’t always populate or update all of them, and retailers don’t always display or update all of them,” said Len Vlahos, executive director of the BISG.

For instance, when on a book’s online retail page, a reader may not know immediately that it’s the third book in a series where the first was made into a movie and that it won a science-fiction readers’ choice award or was recognized by a certain magazine or website as one of the ten best of the year – all points of data that could help sell the book.

Currently, most North American publishers enter metadata using ONIX 2.1. Some of the suggested metadata elements can be added manually as text fields, but they won’t be searchable, said O’Leary. Distributors and booksellers themselves are sometimes already adding such metadata, but this approach creates problems, too, as inconsistencies arise and publishers often don’t want their metadata altered.

Related: Nearly 100% of Publishers Have Seen E-Booksellers Get Their Metadata Wrong

Some of the metadata that the book industry would like added to ONIX 2.1 may have already been added to ONIX 3.0, the next generation of the software, said O’Leary, who will be presenting a preliminary version of the report tomorrow in a webcast presented by Digital Book World and the Book Industry Study Group.

The BISG study was conducted by Magellan Media between February and April among a cross-section of just over 100 publishers, wholesalers, service-providers, retailers and manufacturers. About of a quarter of the responses were gathered by phone and the rest online.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield

Find out more by signing up for the live webcast series Evolving Metadata Practices: Research, ROI, and ONIX 3.0, presented by Digital Book World and the Book Industry Study Group.

Metadata concept via Shutterstock

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One thought on “Book Industry Wants Better Metadata for Marketing

  1. The central issue in this excellent post is: ‘If properly displayed on book retail sites…’

    Most of what is mentioned can already be expressed in ONIX 2.1. The ‘Series/Set’, ‘Prize’ and ‘RelatedProduct’ composites allow for most of it, if properly used.

    The problem lies more with the capacities of the producers and consumers of ONIX messages, than with the possibilities of the standard itself.

    The actual key problems are how to gather, consolidate, structure and maintain such disperse information on the producing side (the publisher’s?) and how to ‘display it properly’ at the message consuming side.

    Let’s face it.

    No matter how complex and complete the ONIX message there will always be collateral information that will need to be gathered by other means (where have the semantic web’s promises gone?).
    The _real_ challenge will be how to present all this extremely varied information in a structured, attractive and simple way to the potential reader.

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