To exploit the value of granular textual or multimedia content, publishers often encounter the problem of versioning and rights. Again, metadata can make it work.
Metadata can be distinguished into descriptive, business, administrative and structural metadata relating to the objects in a digital library. Descriptive metadata are classifications by subject, keywords, etc. Administrative metadata records, for example, when a document was created or revised, by whom and for what purpose; it also includes elements such as source metadata and rights metadata. Structural metadata records the structure of the document in question and how it fits into a larger structure. And there is more. Link metadata records all the resources to which the document or publication is linked. Behavioral metadata records things like interactivity, which with EPUB3 are becoming more and more common.
Metadata standardization for the publishing industry is largely done with the ONIX standard, which is an international standard for representing and communicating information about book industry products in electronic format. It is an XML-based standard for metadata that provides a consistent way for publishers, booksellers and their business chain partners to communicate a wide range of information about their products. It is expressly designed for worldwide use and is not limited to any one language. It is widely used throughout the physical and electronic book chain in North America, Europe and Australasia, and is increasingly being adopted in the Asia-Pacific region and South America.
ONIX is not itself a database, nor is it even a design for a database, but a way of communicating data between databases. Other organizations provide off-the-shelf software or web-based applications for product management that implement ONIX messaging.
Experience has shown that ONIX brings two important benefits. First, because it is a communication format, it makes it possible to deliver product information to the entire retail trade chain in a standard and consistent manner. This greatly reduces support costs, as publishers no longer need to provide data in so many unique formats. In many cases, a single data feed can be tailored to all of a publisher’s supply chain partners. And by providing a template for the content and structure of a product card, ONIX has helped stimulate the introduction of better in-house information systems capable of bringing together all the metadata needed for the description and promotion of new and backlist titles. The same basic ONIX data can also be used to produce advance information sheets, catalogs and other promotional material, to feed publishers’ websites, and to meet the needs of the commercial chain in general.
ONIX provides more efficient and faster loading of up-to-date product information into internal or customer systems, with less need for manual intervention and much less risk of error. It reduces the need to deal with multiple proprietary data formats and therefore support costs. In addition, by enabling third parties, such as data aggregator trade associations, to develop data quality and timeliness metrics, it fosters the overall improvement of data available throughout the supply chain.
Experience also shows that ONIX implementation tends to go hand-in-hand with an increased focus on the business value of metadata as a driver of discoverability.
Maintaining good rights metadata – and updating it regularly – is essential in our multi-channel, multi-product digital world. If you know which author wrote which part of a textbook (ideally, with good IDs, including authors’ ISNIs), you can much more easily manage rights tracking, especially when you sell that content in a granular way, or cut it up for new products. Otherwise, rights tracking is often such a burden that you never find the time to deal with it and it doesn’t pay off. In the same vein, it is necessary to know what rights you have on a given image.