Metadata represents our products in the 21st century virtual marketplace. This means describing our products – books – in most complete and compelling way possible. Product description is metadata, whether you’re selling books, shoes, or refrigerators. It’s true that the files that carry our electronic metadata should be formatted in a way that meets standards so that they can be easily shared with trading partners, interpreted and displayed on seller websites. But the heart of metadata is describing our books so that readers can find them in a virtual shopping environment but also, perhaps even more importantly, so that they can engage with the book once they’re on the product page. No one understands the content and marketing of their books better than you – the publisher.
This is why my partner, Thad McIlroy, and I decided the write The Metadata Handbook. There’s lots of documentation out there. There are organizations that focus on developing and sharing standards and best practices. There are businesses that deal exclusively in metadata. There are conferences, blog posts, and articles that talk about the importance of creating and distributing good metadata.. But we weren’t able to find anything that pulls it all together into one resource.
This is the TOC for the Handbook. In the Handbook we talk about the why as well as the how. We put metadata into the context of today’s marketplace and players. Standards and practices are really just define the carriers of metadata and how to use them. They provide a common language to talk about books in a way that can be shared effectively in all the sales channels. Our hope is that the handbook will help publishers develop metadata strategies and practices that are practical and effective in your own organization. We don’t expect you to read the Handbook and say aha, now I know everything about metadata. The book is also designed to work as an everyday reference to terms, resources, documentation, and partners. At the book’s website, you can find out more and download a PDF that contains extensive excerpts.
But don’t want to use this time to talk about the book. I want to explore some of the concepts that led to the book and about the role of metadata in the today’s marketplace - first in a broader sense and then specifically in regard to publisher supply chain metadata.
Effective internet selling requires good product description. This is true for appliances, tools, and clothes as well as for books and other products that carry intellectual content – music, film, video games, etc. Notice the amount of metadata available on this Zappos page. There are several ways the user could get to this page. 1. The user knows she wants this particular pair of shoes and wants to buy them at Zappos. If the consumer already knows what he or she wants, then obviously the data must support finding that product using information already gained from some external source. To use data in this way at Zappos, the user would have to know the the name of the shoe “Soft Morroco” or the SKU – not likely. In the book world, common searches for known items include ISBN, Title, Author. In a sense, data for this usage is closer to data needed for an accurate inventory system – not the web experience we’ve come to expect. And it assumes that the reader has heard about the book and is interested in buying it from that particular site as opposed to the many other shopping options.But web-based selling wouldn’t be as pervasive or successful if this were all that was needed. Web stores are designed to be discovery engines as well and to make the experience closer to browsing and finding out about a product in an actual store. There should be many opportunities to find cool things you didn’t know about or to find an as yet unknown product that meets your needs. The way that data is used behind the scenes is a form of marketing. The metadata also feeds back into business tools that support solid business intelligence and marketing decisions. It accompanies information about sales, browsing patterns, etc.
Having an idea of what you want and drilling down from a very general category is a common way to shop. Let’s say I want red boots and I like the range of products, prices, and the user experience at Zappos. First I had to pick the broad type of product that I want – Women’s Shoes rather than clothes or accessories. When I narrow down to boots under women’s shoes, I’ve gone from 38,059 items to 7,017. The options expand to allow choice of size, width, color, and other aspects of the product– other data elements.Some aspects of buying shoes are comparable to buying from the books section of a website that hosts many types of products. Choosing “women” is comparable to choosing an “audience”, e.g. childrens’ books, etc. It’s generally assumed that the audience is adult unless otherwise indicated. Choosing boots after going to shoes is somewhat comparable to a BISAC heading of Fiction – General. You’ll get a LOT of hits and probably won’t want to look at all of them.
If we narrow boots to “ankle” boots, the options change to show metadata applicable to that category and the number or items to view gets smaller. We can see how this would be true for books as well. Metadata that is applicable to some types of items won’t be applicable to all. Boot shaft is only needed for boots. In the book world, for example, metadata applicable to an audio or eBook won’t all be the same as for print.In this slide, I’ve already narrowed by size and width. We can then continue to narrow by material, price, color, etc. Notice how many options there are! And I haven’t displayed all of them here. Keep in mind that this metadata has to be applied to each individual record/item in order for this to work.We aren’t the only industry that must deal with tons of metadata in order to compete. All of the options – data elements – must be attached to appropriate items at the product record level for search, discovery, and selling to work.
In the Zappos examples, we saw common data elements for shoe shopping. Size, color, category, material, price, SKU, etc. will be found on every product record. These are the some of the elements needed to support basic business needs. But websites do everything they can to differentiate their sites from others selling the same products. The shoe site had videos, customer reviews, and descriptions. Publishers need more than title, author, format, and isbn to compete. Reviews, author biographies, interviews, etc. bring a more personal and emotional aspect to product description.
Here are the core metadata elements as defined by the BISG Metadata Committee whose members represent many aspects of publishing. I’ve divided them into categories we’ve been using - description, item, and data needed for selling. Some data elements are no-brainers: title, price, etc. Some may not be immediately obvious. The items in bold are required to be present in every record. There may be multiple parts to these overall data categories. For example, your title information may have a title and a subtitle. These will need to entered into the correct fields in order to display properly. You will rarely use all of these elements on every item. Some are considered mandatoryonly if applicable. Not every book is part of a series. Not every book has an edition. As the world began to be powered by data in electronic form, Industry standards developed to encourage consistency and to allow data to work in multiple systems.. To effectively share or display information about your book you have to organize it and transmit it in a way that makes sense to the systems that hold and “read” it.
The first section of our book focuses on the metadata lifecyle and the industry players that share and use metadata. Metadata starts with the publisher and is usually shared well before publication. Metadata is necessary to obtain an ISBN, get listed in industry databases, and inform wholesalers and retailers about forthcoming titles. Retailers and libraries use direct-from-publisher or wholesaler data to make buying decisions. Metadata may be visible to readers early in the publishing process through publisher, retailer, and library sites. Consumer pre-orders and library reserves are common.
Many publishers have their own websites and control when data is exposed to users. Let’s look at prepub data on a publisher website.
Note the comprehensive bio with awards information and author photo. This record has some enhanced metadata in advance of publication. Metadata should grow over time with post-publication reviews, awards, and other information not available pre-pub. If awards are a category on the site, i.e. Edgar Award Winners, awards data will also need to be in a separate field to make titles findable under those categories.
Getting listed on industry databases is one of the first stops for metadata. This may happen in coordination with the ISBN registry process.Traditionally, providing metadata to providers that sell to other businesses – libraries and retailers. Data shared with these trading partners is usually accessed through business-to-business (or business to library) proprietary products and services. Data aggregators and wholesalers receive metadata from multiple sources and maintain staff dedicated to metadata management.
Let’s look at the full diagram again. Publishers now provide metadata direct to many retailers.
Metadata distributed to resellers is translated to direct-to-consumer metadata. We could do an entire presentation on libraries and metadata but let’s leave them out of today’s discussion. Retailers receive metadata directly from publishers as well as from wholesalers and data aggregators. Large retailers also maintain staff for metadata management. Every user experience on a seller site is driven by metadata. Metadata from multiple sources is checked for consistency and quality and may be enhanced by seller metadata staff. Bricks-and-mortar retailers are also dependent on metadata behind the scenes for business operations, merchandising, marketing, etc. This is to distinguish their selling environments from the other buying options.
Let’s look at the same pre-pub book on a seller website.
The Amazon book description is the same as Penguin’s. But the bio is totally different and there are two. Perhaps the publisher didn’t deliver biographical info to the seller. Maybe the seller didn’t accept it for some reason. For some unknown reason, one bio is incorrectly placed under Editorial Reviews.
We’ve talked about core and evaluative metadata elements as they appear in a product record. Now we’ll take a step back and look at how users might get to a product record.When we discussed search in the Zappos environment we talked a little about direct search and findability. The reader knows what he or she wants. A common way to find it is through title search, A search of the title NW in books retrieved the desired book as the first option.Readers use a direct search when the item is known. They’ve found out about it from another source – a review, a friend, another website. In the book world, common searches for known items include ISBN, Title, Author. In a sense, data for this kind of use is closer to data needed for an accurate inventory system – find the matching item. At the very least, search for a known item should work and work well. Metadata should fully support finding a known item through accuracy and completeness. Ideally, the seller’s search engine is sophisticated enough to analyze search terms detect near matches but not all of them are. Let’s drill down in a book search. Behind that scenes, metadata drives both web-based direct user search and the algorithms that can expose such things as forthcoming mysteries, bios, recommendations (if you like this …), etc. The “magic” is only as good as the tools behind it. A lot of times we don’t go into a website knowing exactly what we want with title, isbn, etc. at hand.
The reader may also search for author – perhaps they know Zadie Smith has a new book coming out and can’t remember the title. Or maybe the reader is a fan wants to know if Zadie Smith has written anything recently. Results can be sorted in several ways with “top matches” as default. If the reader wanted to know which title is most recent, the sort can be changed to publication date. Of course, this only works if the data is there and is correct.
KeywordsWe’ve already reduced by searching in books only. The user is looking for a book about Facebook. Facebookas a keyword returns 760 titles. The user probably won’t look at all of them. The automatic sort is by top matches. You can also sort by bestselling, publication date, price, and alphabetical title listing. But what you really want is a book for your child about facebook..
But perhaps the user was really looking for a book about Facebook for a teenager. So they might try the keywords facebook and children. 12 hits. Some are for children some about facebook and children. The user could go through these and see which ones are for children. But can they be sure this is all the books about facebook for a juvenile audience?
The site allows narrowing from all books to kid’s books. If the books are coded correctly as juvenile, this search should be more on target.All FOR Children
Age range. Series. Pages. Looking at the title record gives a lot more info. It’s part of a series. The user might want to look at those titles too.
But users may not start with a direct search or even a keyword search. The options on book sites indicate the sellers’ assumption that readers will look (browse) for books in many kinds of ways. This is similar to bookstore merchandising and shelving that alerts readers to certain books as well as organizing books by subject/genre and alphabetically by author. Some sections must curated but the first step of curation may be to look at a list of books via subject, pub date, or some other criteria. Books that are not exposed in this kind of behind-the-scenes curation may not end up on any of the lists. Obviously sales and customer ranking plays a part. But this data is attached to the actual book data and can be sliced and diced base on top sellers in a category, by author, pre-publication, etc.Let’s drill down in a book search. Behind that scenes, metadata drives both web-based direct user search and the algorithms that can expose such things as forthcoming mysteries, bios, recommendations (if you like this …), etc. The “magic” is only as good as the tools behind it. A lot of times we don’t go into a website knowing exactly what we want with title, isbn, etc. at hand.
Drilling down into “Featured new arrivals”
And on to new computer titles
And then click through to the product page forbook the you’re interested in buying. Note all the additional information available (not just core elements) and the options to go further and find more books by clicking on the author, “customers who bought this …,” or one of the related subjects.These are just a few of the ways metadata is used. I hope this presentation has been helpful in exploring some of those uses. It’s also used for sales tracking, business analysis, and marketing strategy. The way the metadata is displayed on a web page is different for different sellers. They can decide the most interesting and helpful way to show the different pieces of metadata. In addition to being accurate and complete, behind the scenes , the metadata sellers receive from publishers or data vendors must be formatted correctly and be placed in the right field of the electronic record for the sellers systems to determine this is the title, this is the author, etc. That combination is what makes everything work.
Contact Gail if you’d like to take advantage of today’s discount. The book will be published in August and we’ll send you download information as soon as it’s ready. We’ll also update the website with publication information. Weblog about various metadata and publishing industry topics on the book website. And, please feel free to contact me or Thad directly if you have questions or want more information.
Metadata in the Marketplace: Book Metadata for 21st Century Bookselling
Metadata in the MarketplaceBook Metadata for 21st Century Bookselling
The Metadata Handbook:A Book Publisher’s Guide to CreatingAnd Distributing Metadata for Print and EbooksRenee Register, DataCurateThad McIlroy, The Future of PublishingAttendees receive a 25% discount on the book’sdigital formats. A savings of $23.75. Contact GailKump to order.Gail Kump, Director, Membership MarketingT 212-255-1041F 212-255-7007Gkump@publishers.org themetadatahandbook.com
About Our Book Essential information for online bookselling − In one volumePart 1Book Industry Players and the Metadata LifecyclePart 2Book Industry Metadata StandardsPart 3Essential Metadata ElementsPart 4Metadata Best Practices and Certification ProgramsPart 5Metadata and the Future of PublishingGlossaryReferencesBibliographyIndustry Organizations themetadatahandbook.comVendor Directory
Metadata in the Marketplace How Consumers Use MetadataCore Metadata Elements for BooksEnhancing Metadata to Stand Out in the MarketplaceThe Metadata Lifecycle How the Supply Chain Uses Metadata How Readers Use Metadata
Metadata is essential to 21s century commerce It’s everywhere - for all product types For effective selling, product information (metadata) must fully support Product description Search, discovery, selection, and purchase Business and commerce needs Reviews Name IdentifierVideo Brand Price Image Color Size Width Available Colors
Core Metadata Elements for BooksTo fully support customer and business needs include:Metadata for content description (Title, Author Summary, Subjects …)Metadata for item description (Format, Number of items, run time …)Metadata for commerce (Price, On-Sale Date, Territorial Rights …)Identifier(s) (ISBN, EAN ...)To stand out in the marketplace include:Evaluative metadata (Reviews, Awards …)Author information (Author biographies, Author Awards ...)Any other information that adds value or supports search
Core Metadata Elements for Books BISG Product Metadata Best PracticesStandard Product Identifier Item DescriptionISBN 13/GTIN 13/EAN 13 Product Form (Format, Binding, Packaging, Digital Information)Content Description Extent (Page count/Running Time/FileTitle/Name of Product Size)Contributor(s) DRM/Usage ConstraintsPublisher/Imprint/Brand Name Weight and DimensionsPublication Date Number of PiecesBISAC Subject(s)Language(s) of Product Content CommerceSeries/Set Information Price(s)Edition Information Publisher Proprietary Discount CodeIntended Audience for Product (ONIX Publisher Status CodeAudience code/Age/Reading level) Product Availability CodeIllustration and Multimedia Details Territorial RightsTextual Description of Content and Other Bar Code IndicatorText Content (May include Table of Contents, Strict On-Sale DateExcerpts, etc.) Return CodeDigital Image of Product Case Pack/Carton Quantity Distributor/Vendor of Record Related Products
Core Metadata − Publisher Site Title, author Format, Imprint, Run time, Number of items, Publication date, ISBN PriceCover image Availability Title, author Format (binding), Imprint, Number of pages, Publication date, ISBN
Enhanced Metadata − Publisher Site Author biography Author photo Awards Other books by the author
The Metadata Handbook:A Book Publishers Guide to CreatingAnd Distributing Metadata for Print and EbooksRenee Register, DataCuratereneeregister@datacurate.comThad McIlroy, The Future of Publishingthad@thefutureofpublishing.comAttendees receive a 25% discount on the book’s digitalformats. A savings of $23.75. Contact Gail Kump to order.Gail Kump, Director, Membership MarketingT 212-255-1041F 212-255-7007Gkump@publishers.org themetadatahandbook.com