by Larry Norton
At the Pub West conference on February 6, 2016 in in Sante Fe, some of the industry’s most professional small publishers gathered in a packed conference room to hear a panel discussion about “Using Metadata for All It’s Worth.” The panel was moderated by Mark Ouimet (Ingram), featuring Leigh Grinstead (Lyrasis), Joe Matthews (IPG), Joshua Tallent (Firebrand) and me (Larry Norton, INscribe Digital). You can check out the slide deck here.
Leigh Grinstead took on the challenge of encouraging publishers to educate their authors about metadata and its critical importance to the successful publication of their titles. The best information about a title often comes from its original source, she explained, so raising author consciousness about metadata gets the whole process off to an excellent start. Leigh’s goal is to get publishers and authors to embrace standards that will flow all the way through the supply chain to bookstores, websites, and libraries (which are Leigh’s professional area of specialty).
Speaking for the publishing services company INscribe Digital, I raised the subject of ONIX, the highly efficient XML format for sharing bibliographic data, which is now the industry standard, and how powerful it can be in driving sales for publishers, if used to its fullest extent. In fact, many independent publishers are now realizing that investing in ONIX and migrating their data is a straightforward way to position their companies for growth. I also mentioned that INscribe Digital has just released a new white paper for publishers, “Five Ways to Optimize Your Metadata and Sell More Books.”
With a show of hands, we learned that almost everyone in the room knew what ONIX was, but when asked how many had actually coded ONIX, not one hand went up. “That’s OK,” panelist Joshua Tallent told the audience, because you don’t need to know ONIX if you have a good title management system, or if you have databases that can export ONIX. However, publishers need to know what is important about ONIX, and how to organize metadata in order to leverage it, he said. That will help publishers select the best third party to manage the process, and also help organize the company workflow, so that the right data appears in the right field for the right title at the right retailer.
Joe Matthews spoke to the realities of the ONIX supply chain, explaining that even though a publisher many have perfect metadata perfectly expressed in ONIX, it’s a messy world out there, and it’s important to be aware of the pitfalls and odd practices in the marketplace. Metadata moves from source to source unevenly, and often gets overwritten in ways that publishers do not want. So, according to Joe, one key action that publishers must build into their efforts is to regularly audit retailer web sites to make sure that the metadata is accurate and correctly displayed. Many ONIX suppliers now offer auditing tools to help publishers monitor retailer sites in a more automated fashion, he added, so publishers should be sure to ask about these features when selecting a third party.
The robust question and answer period facilitated by moderator Mark Ouimet (Ingram) underscored how hungry publishers are for insight into industry best practices for managing metadata.