ONIX 3.0 Raises Standard for Ebook Metadata
So what are the benefits of version 3.0? First, there was a spring-cleaning based on nearly a decade of experience. ONIX 2.1 contains many XML data elements that were inherited from previous versions of ONIX. They have been superseded by better ways of expressing the information, but the old method still exists in parallel. For example, an ISBN can be carried in a data structure called . But for backward compatibility purposes, ONIX 2.1 also has a dedicated and inflexible data element for ISBNs that it inherited from ONIX 1.0. (Confusingly, the element is solely for obsolete ISBN-10s). ONIX 3.0 sacrifices some compatibility with 2.1 and sweeps away the older elements, increasing clarity, making it simpler to implement, more modular, and more flexible.
The next change lies in the treatment of digital products. In ONIX 2.1, these are something of an afterthought, treated as exceptions rather than mainstream products responsible for perhaps a quarter of the revenue of a typical publisher. ONIX 2.1 is a product of its time -- but its time was 2001. In version 3.0, ebooks and other digital products are treated much like any other product, albeit with some new metadata relating to file formats, usage rights, and licensing, which are all much more important today.
There are a number of changes that arise from the increasingly global nature of the book trade. In 2.1, only minimal information about rights was required -- "Is this book for sale in Canada?" -- yet this doesn't meet the business needs of retailers who operate globally. Version 3.0 requires much more comprehensive information (even if this is simply a list of countries for which the rights position is unknown). The description of complex international distribution and supply arrangements is considerably more clear in 3.0. And while ONIX has always worked in any language, 3.0 enables sophisticated multi-language, multi-script metadata, so the description of a book that is in Spanish could be given in both English and Spanish in parallel.