ONIX 3.0 Raises Standard for Ebook Metadata
Over time, ONIX 2.1 "idioms" developed separately in each country that adopted it widely. This resulted in small but critical country-to-country differences in recommended practices promoted by trade organizations like the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), BookNet Canada (BNC), and Book Industry Communication (BIC) in the U.K. A recent revision of the BISG guidelines, carried out jointly with BNC, has improved the alignment significantly, but ONIX 3.0 doesn't carry this baggage -- improvements to the documentation and a global best practice guide from EDItEUR seek to ensure such variations simply don't arise.
Other changes? Some simplifications in the way ONIX 3.0 treats sets and series. Greater flexibility in provision of marketing collateral. And for those concerned with the sheer volume of data that needs to be communicated and processed, ONIX 3.0 includes "block updating" that radically reduces the size of data updates.
More generally, an organization migrating from 2.1 to 3.0 will likely re-evaluate its business processes, and perhaps take the opportunity to re-engineer and streamline, taking its chance to send or receive richer, more accurate, more timely metadata -- all of which lead directly to improved sales.
So if the benefits of ONIX 3.0 are so clear, why is it not already in use by every publisher and retailer? Some of the reasons for the slow pace of migration among North American publishers are obvious. First, a kind of network effect: the very ubiquity of the older version means that there's immense inertia to overcome. In countries where ONIX is less prevalent, adoption of the new version is noticeably more rapid. Second, there is an understandable reluctance to invest in technical updates when there is little direct or short-term benefit. The lack of simple backward compatibility means that some investment is needed, and the business case for adopting ONIX 3.0 de novo is much more clear cut than that for upgrading to ONIX 3.0, given that version 2.1 is often viewed as "good enough". And third, there has perhaps been some lack of leadership. The other meaning of the word "standard" is the flag at the head an army, yet trade organizations, major publishers, system vendors, and major recipients of ONIX data have not leapt forward to guide the way.