ONIX 3.0 Raises Standard for Ebook Metadata
ONIX In A Nutshell
There are three elements to the ONIX framework. First, there is an underlying abstract view of the nature of products and titles, and the role and scope of identifiers and metadata in the commercial world. This is barely visible to publishers or retailers that exchange ONIX data, but informs the overall design of the scheme.
Second, there is an XML-based message format. This is the ONIX that many are familiar with:
Maj Sjöwall är född i Stockholm 1935. Hon är mest känd för de tio Martin Beck-romaner hon skrev tillsammans med sin make Per Wahlöö.
It looks challenging, but it isn't really intended for human consumption. The XML message is for machine-to-machine communication and includes a structured set of data elements for the identification and description of books and ebooks as products -- elements like and shown in the extract above. (It's important to understand that ONIX is a means of communication, not a database. Certainly it has implications for the way that publishers and retailers store and manage their product information, but it doesn't specify the database structure they should use. In general, linking your database or application design too closely to a particular standard should be avoided.)
Third, there's a large group of controlled vocabularies -- "codelists" in ONIX parlance -- describing aspects like the role of a contributor ("A01" above means "written by"), or the physical or electronic form of a product, in a language-independent way. So a code like BB for the physical form of a book means "hardcover"in U.S. English, "hardback" in U.K. English, but equally it means gebundene Ausgabe in German, and can be understood even if the entire ONIX message is in Swedish like the extract above. This language independence has contributed greatly to the international adoption of ONIX, as has the fact that it is a relatively open standard and free of charge for anyone to use.
ONIX 2.1 vs. ONIX 3.0
ONIX 2.1 and ONIX 3.0 are different, but many overestimate the degree of that difference. The underlying abstract view has not changed. Most codelists are shared between the versions. The update doesn't necessarily imply radical change in any application or database used to manage product metadata. And while the extract above is ONIX 3.0, anyone familiar with ONIX 2.1 might not even have noticed the differences. There are two differences visible in the example above: used to be , and in 2.1, it would have occurred after the name rather than before. But not all the differences are as trivial as this, and for an organization using ONIX, there are clearly some development costs associated with migrating to the newer version.