Guest Columnist: Working Smarter
The Importance of Good Data
While we’re examining the engine room of book businesses, let’s include a review of how product information is created and distributed. Can there be anything more critical to a publisher’s, bookseller’s or wholesaler’s sales success in these difficult times than accurate, timely and comprehensive product data? For more than 10 years, the message about the importance of good data has been proclaimed throughout our industry. We have seen much improvement in that time, but there is still a long way to go before we can say that the book business has really gotten the message. Inaccurate and unreliable data about titles, publication dates, prices and much more continues to be common, despite the easy availability of information, advice and standards to help everyone in the supply chain perfect their product information.
Having supported the industry with standards and best practices in this area for many years, BISG introduced last year a certification program that enables publishers to provide us with product data files in ONIX or Excel, and to receive free and independent feedback. Several publishers used the service, and many of them attained BISG certification, but we would like to see many more. In today’s climate, who ignores offers of free, expert advice?
Business communication and product information are only two examples of where book businesses can look for improvements in efficiency that in turn can lead to higher sales. There are many others. The sorry mess of industry returns is one obvious area. Many are even less glamorous (are poorly formatted carton labels leading to delayed shipments?), but in times as difficult as these, it’s vital to explore even the darkest corners of our businesses to identify opportunities for greater efficiency.
As an industry, there is so much more to be done to make our supply chain processes more effective. Cooperation across the industry is vital if we’re going to succeed. So many of the initiatives we take for granted and which are so essential for the operation of our industry—ISBN-13, BISAC Subject Codes, .ePub—were possible only because of the determination and commitment of many people prepared to devote time to the development of standards for the greater good of the book business and to work through organizations such as BISG, the Association of American Publishers and the International Digital Publishing Forum.