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RECOMMENDED!






ONIX: The Book Jacket of the Future

by Wendy J. Woudstra   

 
 


Take a browse through any of the major online bookstores, and you'll notice that some books have cover art, descriptions, review and other information (known as metadata), and others list nothing but the title, author and price.

Metadata plays a large role in online book sales (titles with metadata outsell those without, eight to one) so it is in the best interests of both bookstores and publishers to include metadata for as many titles as possible.

The problem thus far has been that each bookstore wants their metadata submitted in different formats and different methods, so submitting a whole backlist to each of them can be a huge chore for even medium-sized publishers.

Enter ONIX

In order to solve this problem, the Association of American Publishers (AAP), along with representatives from the major online booksellers and book information sources, created a set of guidelines for ONline Information eXchange (ONIX).

ONIX is a subset of XML intended to establish a standard descriptive language for describing bibliographic and promotional information among publishers, wholesalers, retailers and anyone else involved in the sale of books.

ONIX uses a series of data elements (148 of them, to be exact) that describe book information. The data elements are simple identifiers enclosed in angle brackets. For example, the tag <a01> is used to indicate an ISBN, while <d01> identifies the title.

Of the 148 elements, 42 are designated as the kernel - the bare minimum that every publisher should supply about every book, though not all the kernel elements will apply to every book, and many of the non-kernel elements are very desireable to include as well.

While it might sound complex, in reality ONIX is a simple format for even small publishers with limited budgets. ONIX formatted files can be created with something as simple as a text editor or Microsoft's free XML Notepad.

None of the online booksellers have any information on their sites about when they will be ready to accept documents in ONIX format, but in the meantime, it would be wise for all publishers to familiarize themselves with the basic structure of ONIX.

The full documentation can be downloaded in MS Word or PDF format from the AAP site at www.publishers.org/onix.htm.


by Wendy Woudstra