13 thoughts on “Nearly 100% of Publishers Have Seen E-Booksellers Get Their Metadata Wrong

  1. Bob Mayer

    We now have 72 titles available at Cool Gus Publishing and we’re constantly having to go to various outlets and check not only the metadata, but also customer reviews as people will note if there are formatting problems or other issues. It’s a full time job redoing every title every few months not just with new metadara for SEO, but also links to new titles.

  2. Brian O'Leary

    The question in the survey asked publishers if their metadata had been “altered”, not specifically if it was “wrong”. Almost every publisher reported having seen their metadata altered. When I answered you, I should have been clearer about this. My fault for not taking an extra couple of minutes to re-read my response.

    One thing that I think I was clear on: publishers don’t necessarily know where their metadata is altered. In that light, “e-booksellers” are not necessarily responsible for altered metadata. Changes can be made upstream from a retailer and simply presented as “what we were given”.

    Survey questions were asked about both physical and digital books. The headline here might be interpreted as e-books alone, but responses to both the interviews and the survey indicate that metadata is changed for both.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Thanks for the comment, Brian.

      Having re-read the piece, I think everything is accurate except the “altered” versus “wrong” thing. I will be going in and making a small change.

      Also, if I could do it all over again, I would perhaps change the headline from “E-Booksellers” to “Online Booksellers”

      Thanks so much for your great presentation and I look forward to the full report when it comes out.

  3. Nigel Atkinson

    Anyone who works in the ebook retailer/vendor world will be screaming at this article. Not necessarily because it is wrong but that it ignores the major problem with poorly represented bibliographic data in the marketplace; that the original metadata is incorrect or inconsistent with the agreed industry standards. Or that many publishers pay far less care to how they represent an individual book through its metadata than many schoolchildren spend on representing this years lemonade sale.
    For the article to just say that retailers are the problem in altering metadata ignores the main problem in the industry, that publishers are consistently bad at creating and preparing the key data associated with their one and only product. It is at worst ignorant of the key role of metadata in securing the best sales and potentially derelict in their duty of representing and protecting their authors interests appropriately.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      Just to be clear, there is no blame being assigned here. All the article is saying is that publishers have observed that the metadata gets altered at some point in the process and many of them don’t know where.

  4. Cecilia Tan

    Part of the problem is that each ebook retailer has a different idea of what some of the basic metadata pieces are. Take a simple one: author. Every retailer requires that the author field be filled in. Many REQUIRE the author name be split into FIRSTNAME and LASTNAME. But what do you do when the author is The Society for the Study of American Culture to name one example? Or when the author is Cher? If the author’s pseudonym is Captain Kangaroo, should Captain be the first name, and Kangaroo be the last name, even though universally people will look to alphabetize that under C and not K? Does Kermit the Frog go under Kermit or Frog?

    Now add the fact that almost every trade book published has both a title and subtitle, but pretty much none of the major ebook retailers makes any allowance for subtitle as a separate data category. Your only choice is to treat it as part of the title, leading to some unwieldy titles out there.

    The lack of metadata standardization across ebook retailers has meant our metadata database has five separate fields for author name, configured all different ways, and many other duplications to try to satisfy all the quirks. The alteration of our metadata into something wrong often has to happen on our end before we can even upload, in order to fit what weirdnesses a given retailer might require.

  5. Jen Talty

    We’ve seen data changed months after upload. One specific example is with Amazon and they change our publisher name from our name to someone else. I believe, this happens in part because we published a backlist title that while the previous publisher has taken off its for sale, it hasn’t removed the data from whatever distributor they are using to push the information to Amazon. What is bothersome to me as a small publisher is the idea that we have a completely different ISBN than the previous publisher, obviously, but that that the vendor, in this case Amazon, changes the publisher name. Amazon has been good about fixing this (its happened only with one author but on all her books), but its one of those things that needs to be address.

    I agree with the lack of standardization in ebooks. We upload direct to the 4 major platforms and each one is done very differently with different information required.

  6. smith john

    It is true that matter of the e-books changing from their actual matter. This only because of the reader and then commenter. Mata Data of course changed again it is because of the reader’s thinking then the thinking become the part of that e-book. Just take it like writer wrote the e-book and then publisher nothing to do with it as he is only a publisher.



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