now so entrenched, there is a general
lack of motivation to change,” says
Phil Madans, executive director of digital publishing technology at Hachette Book Group USA. He
points out that work-arounds have been developed that make
it possible to include some Onix 3.0 functionality.
Christer Perslov, managing director at Bokrondellen in
Stockholm, says his organization did “a hard switch” from
Onix 2. 1 to 3.0, “which is easier, because in a small country
like ours, all ;ve book chains could get together and agree.”
But even so, he cautions, the way Onix 3.0 is used in one
country is not quite the same as in another.
Adding to the inertia created by the sunk costs and infra-
structure of Onix 2. 1 is what both Paraita and Madans clas-
sify as a chicken-and-egg problem. Publishers may ask, “If few
recipients are taking the Onix 3.0 feed, why should we take on
the effort and cost of the change?” And recipients, such as
wholesalers or retailers, may reply, “If publishers are still send-
ing the metadata in 2. 1, what’s the point of upgrading?”
Curiously, larger publishers may also be at a certain disad-
vantage, as many people in a large company enter information
into Onix, which means inconsistencies arise more easily. And
the sheer size of the major publishers creates an even larger
gap between those tasked with implementing Onix, and those
responsible for the strategy and direction of the company.
Exacerbating the problem is the fact that senior publishing
Onix 3.0: Global Publishing,
executives have rarely focused much attention on metadata.
This gap could become a vulnerability, however, especially as
the strategic use of technology becomes a critical factor,
accelerating need for quick-response marketplace shifts.
Saynor recalls one publisher commenting during a webinar
last year that “what we need is a metadata expert on the
board of directors!”
That may not happen soon, but with Onix 3.0, other things
may be changing. “Onix [ 3.0] has the potential to be the crit-
ical communication format that helps bind a fragmented
supply chain across the full spectrum of titles, information
sheets, catalogue information, and promotional materials as
well as geographies,” says Ken Michaels Global COO of
Macmillan Science and Education. “Editorial and marketing
knowledge can be passed on to all channel partners to help
both streamline commerce [globally], reduce costs, and opti-
mize revenue.” ;
Among the challenges technology poses for publish- ing is the issue of how to handle globalization. With the potential to reach a truly global market- place, there is a need for automated M2M (machine to machine—really, computer to computer) data
exchange, with which the books and serial products, as well
as the information about each product—the metadata—can
be easily exchanged. And as demand surges for e-books, new
digital product, subscriptions, nuanced pricing, etc., there is
a pressing need for standards, not only within the metadata
itself, but with the structure in which it is presented.
Thankfully, in Europe and the U.S., the publishing supply
chain has an advantage. For the past 15 years, the industry
has adopted, albeit incompletely, Onix—an online information exchange standard for sharing data and metadata electronically. Over time, its sophistication in terms of syntax (the
;elds into which the information is placed) and semantics
(the richness of information in each ;eld) has grown steadily.
And even as Onix 2. 1 achieved scale in the U.S., U.K., and
German markets, new digital products, markets, and business models have prompted the four-year build of Onix 3.0.
The new iteration offers several improvements over Onix
2. 1, explains Jesus Paraita, technical director of DILVE, the
Spanish equivalent of Onix, which is owned and managed by
the Spanish Federation of Publisher’s Guilds (FGEE). Among
the new features are the ability to handle different e-book
characteristics, such as formats, DRM, etc.; information
about varying market availability and distribution; collateral
resources describing the product, such as author videos and
links to other sites; and details on a variety of business
models—subscription, rental, and discount pricing—that
often vary from country to country.
And more generally, says Graham Bell, executive director
of Editeur, the principle player in an international group gov-
erning Onix, “Onix 3.0 is simpler than Onix 2. 1, so that data
recipients have an easier job. There’s a lot more consistency in
the way the various Onix data structures are used.”
Chris Saynor, head of a new Onix 3 BISG working group
and metadata specialist at GiantChair ( www.giantchair.
com), characterizes the new standard as “the Esperanto of
global publishing.” However, with the readiness of Onix 3.0,
publishing has also reached a turning point: this new stan-
dard is not compatible with earlier versions, and a controver-
sial “sunset” has been proposed to encourage the entire pub-
lishing supply chain to move to its adoption.
“In the U.S., and some European countries, Onix 2. 1 is
BY JAMES LICHTENBERG
Jim Lichtenberg is president of Lightspeed LLC, a New
York City–based consulting firm.