ONIX--An Introduction

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  • 1: (AAP = Association of American Publishers) AAP organized a meeting in July 1999 which was attended by over 60 publishers, online booksellers, etc. As a result of the meeting, the AAP funded and managed a fast-track project during the last quarter of 1999 and amazingly, ONIX Version 1 was published in January of 2000.2: What they wanted was a standard aimed primarily at enabling publishers to supply “rich” product information to Internet booksellers. 3: There were originally two levels, with level 1 being a simplified subset intended for smaller booksellers. But because most booksellers implemented level 2, they scrapped the simplified level 1 completely.4: ONIX is currently in version 3.0, which has brought more focus to digital publishing. It is, of course, not backwards-compatible and plenty of publishers and booksellers are still using earlier versions.5: BIC = Book Industry Communications, BISG = Book Industry Study Group
  • -As you can see, it’s not just Internet booksellers like B&N and Amazon that use ONIX. Publishers themselves have been creating the metadata for their products and giving it to not only booksellers, but libraries too. That means your library, whatever kind of library it is, is likely to receive ONIX-based metadata with your books. Which is great! But also not so great, because that means we’ll have to crosswalk it into whatever schema your library is using (which is likely to be MARC). But then again, the book is also likely to already have a record in OCLC, so maybe you won’t have to worry too much about crosswalking it. I can say, after studying ONIX, that I hope I find these records in OCLC because ONIX is kind of complicated.-You can check a list on EDItEUR’s website that has the institutions and companies sending and/or receiving ONIX metadata, but generally only the largest publishers can afford the staffing needed to manage their own metadata, while smaller publishers use companies like NetRead and Firebrand Technologies to manage and transmit their metadata.
  • 1: So, the syntax used for an ONIX record is XML. In its earlier versions, there was one official schema for ONIX and it was a DTD.2: Metadata includes not only title, author, and ISBN but availability, pricing, publisher name, reviews, blurbs, territorial rights, and jacket images and can include much more.3: The elements within those 26 groups relate to the product record.
  • -Pulled from the contents of the ONIX Format Specifications document.
  • What this means is that all of the data about the actual product has to be carried on the ONIX tags.
  • -My minimum-level record.-There are some other intricacies dealing with XML that would be included but I have little experience with it and finding actual ONIX records online is pretty difficult (found a lot of 404s, unfortunately), so I did what I could, XML-wise, with the documents I was able to find.-The “Message” area that is empty aside from declaring which version of ONIX I’m using would typically house sender information like Sender Name, Contact Name, E-mail Address, Sent Date/Time, Message Note, etc.-As you can see the “ProductIDType” element (and others), ONIX does have some fixed semantic requirements. In their 154-page long Format Specifications pdf document, which can be downloaded in conjunction with some other files as a zip from their website, they’ll tell you when a particular element can have free text or if it needs one of these short codes. They link to a list explaining the codes for that element, so that you can choose the appropriate one. The “fixed” elements are typically required in conjunction with a free-text element (see <Contributor> fields).
  • -Composite is a group of data elements.-It’s interesting that ONIX has two semantic sets—reference and short—that mean the same thing. I’m not sure if this is common, but I certainly prefer the “reference” to “short” because I can read and understand “Price Type” whereas I’d have to look up “x462” (and every other short tag) in order to understand an ONIX record.
  • -Ahhhh, the joys of folksonomies!-The e-book I used in my minimum-level example was the newest Stephen King release. One of the things I noticed when looking at different websites selling the e-book was the numerous complaints that the e-book was just too expensive. The Kindle price is $12.99, for the record, and Amazon posted just under the discount from the print edition the italicized note, “This price was set by the publisher.”


  • 1. Albulena Bruncaj
    LIS 882 – Metadata for Internet Resources
  • 2. ONlineInformation eXchange
  • 3. Meeting organized by AAP in July 1999.
    ONIX, both name and concept, originated there.
    There were originally 2 levels
    ONIX 3.0
    EDItEUR, BIC, and BISG are collaboratively responsible for the maintenance of ONIX.
    ONIX — A History
  • 4. I’ve never heard of ONIX before! Who uses it?
  • 5. I’m glad you asked!
  • 6. I’m glad you asked!
  • 7. I’m glad you asked!
  • 8. I’m glad you asked!
  • 9. I’m glad you asked!
  • 10. I’m glad you asked!
  • 11. I’m glad you asked!
  • 12. An ONIX Primer
  • 13. ONIX is XML-based.
    Over 200 data elements and composite elements.
    Organized into 6 blocks and further into 26 groups
    An introduction to ONIX
  • 14. ONIX’s 6 Blocks and 26 groups
  • 15. Product Description
    Marketing Collateral Detail
    Content Detail
    Publishing Detail
    Related Material
    Product Supply
    The 6 Blocks
  • 16. The view which has been taken in the development of ONIX is that it is undesirable to use XML attributes to carry portions of the actual data content of the ONIX message. However, it is appropriate to use them to carry information which qualifies the data itself and its representation – metadata about metadata, as it were.
  • 17. Minimum
    Amazon’s Blank Forms
    Full Bibliographic
  • 18. <?xml version="1.0"?>
    <ONIXMessage release="3.0">
    <TitleTexttextcase="01">Full Dark, No Stars</TitleText>
    <PersonNameInverted>King, Stephen</PersonNameInverted>
  • 19. <ContentItem>
  • 20. <Price>
  • 21. ONIX ain’t perfect
  • 22. Consistency among ONIX records used to be far easier because most records were for physical materials.
    With the advent of the Apple app store and technologies like the iPad and Kindle, different data is now needed. A single book or album or movie can have several different prices, based on the format.
    This complicates an already long and complex schema.
    You want how much for that?!
  • 23. You want how much for that?!
  • 24. Onix is long, complicated, and unwieldy for small companies and institutions.
    Using ONIX
  • 25. Amazon.com help: Blank forms. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=13685661
    BookNet Canada. ONIX 3.0. Retrieved from http://www.booknetcanada.ca/index.php?option=com_wordpress&p=965&Itemid=319
    Calvin, R. (2010, July 5). Accurate metadata sells books. PW review annex. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts with Full Text database.
    EDItEUR. ONIX: Release 3.0 downloads. Retrieved from http://www.editeur.org/93/Release-3.0-Downloads/
    MIT Libraries. Metadata reference guide: ONIX ONline Information eXchange. Retrieved from http://libraries.mit.edu/guides/subjects/metadata/standards/onix.html