Graham Bell on metadata

by Isabelle Zigrand, studying on MA Publishing Media

Publishing students were fortunate to have Graham Bell from EDItEUR speak to us about the importance of metadata for book sales. Metadata is data about data. In the book industry this could be anything from keywords, price, publisher, author brand, reviews by critics, and much more. It includes all information that could be used to help create, describe, trade, promote and sell books. Most importantly, metadata is used by everyone in the book discovery chain – from publishers, retailers, librarians to search engines and especially readers.

I left Graham Bell’s talk aware of metadata’s importance within the industry and with a better understanding of how metadata is used. He talked us through different examples of ONIX (industry standard) codes, showed us what they look like in practice and explained how to read the code. Bell concluded that metadata has become even more crucial during the Covid-10 pandemic, with shops closed and publishers and retailers reliant on online data for their promotional efforts and sales.

What are EDItEUR and ONIX?

EDItEUR is an international group that establishes and coordinates the global standards for electronic commerce and metadata within the publishing sector. It is free to join, however paid membership is available to those who want to support them. ONIX was developed by EDItEUR as the international standard for representing and communicating book industry product information in electronic form. All ONIX standards are expressed in XML. In short, ONIX is an efficient delivery method for metadata about books, ebooks, audiobooks and serials. Numerous organizations have implemented ONIX within their business, including the big four publishing companies, and Bell confirmed that Amazon is the biggest consumer of ONIX data.

ONIX automates the handling of metadata making reliable and cost-effective metadata easily accessible. Standardized and automated metadata boosts sales by increasing the discoverability of books. The standards are used internationally, as they are not limited by language, with the use of codes rather than words. For example, A01 is the code used for the author’s name.

Stage of customer journeyRelevant Metadata
Discovery title, keywords, etc
Consideration cover, description, price, etc
Conversion sample text, reviews, etc
Retention brand, author

Bell highlighted evidence that implementing ONIX has increased the effectiveness of publisher’s metadata, raising levels of discoverability and sales. He explained the customer journey, where each stage is influenced by different metadata elements.

Research from Nielsen in 2016 found a direct relation between improved metadata and greater sales in the USA and the UK: the more information customers have about a title, the more likely they are to buy. However, Bell also noted that while more is usually best with metadata, when it comes to keywords, the curve flattens after about 30 to 40 keywords. Any more than 40 keywords will have limited effect.

Links to Nielsen research: UK; USA

Edited by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 10 Mar 2021 around 11am

Last edited: 23 03 2021