The Metadata Handbook
A Book Publisher’s Guide to Creating and Distributing Metadata for Print and Ebooks
by Renée Register and Thad McIlroy
132 pages, illustrated
PDF and other digital formats: $95.00
What is DataCurate?
DataCurate helps make metadata work for publishers and other content providers. Our services focus on the intersection between product metadata and discovery.
Creating and distributing powerful product information (metadata) is essential to standing out in a crowded marketplace. The amount of available content – books, music, games, movies, video – continues to grow at an astounding rate. The virtual marketplace is flooded with metadata about both physical and digital content.
We work with you to identify and implement the best ways to create and manage metadata that works to support effective marketing, user discovery and engagement, sales, and business intelligence.
Who needs data curation?
Publishers — Booksellers — Authors — Libraries Wholesalers — Distributors — Data aggregators
Good metadata is the single most important element driving discovery and marketing strategies that connect people with content that matters to them.
DataCurate customers are publishers (including self-publishers), retailers, libraries, data and information providers, and other organizations that want to leverage metadata for marketing, discovery, and sales.
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The Metadata Handbook www.themetadatahandbook.com
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Webinars and structured on-site training programs.
Consulting and training: Metadata standards and best practices, ONIX 3.0, EPUB 3 metadata, assigning subjects and categories, metadata technology and systems selection, metadata trends.
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You hear a lot of talk out there about the importance of metadata in publishing and bookselling, but there’s still confusion around what it is and how to do it well. Here are five things publishers should know.
1. Metadata isn’t a new concept.
Book metadata is at least as old as the Library at Alexandria, constructed in the 3rd century BC. Book information for the approximately 500,000 volumes was recorded in the Pinakes, the first known library catalog. Metadata included title, the author’s name, birthplace, educational background, and a summary of the book. Subjects were assigned and books were housed in separate rooms according to subject. Sound familiar?
Book information continued to be recorded in written or printed form until advances in computer science facilitated widespread machine-to-machine communication, starting in the late 1960s. Our current understanding of metadata is informed by the requirements of electronic communication. Information must be structured and shared in a consistent way so that it can be easily received, translated, and displayed without much human intervention. However, it’s humans who create the initial metadata and who contribute most to its ultimate quality.
2. Metadata is the language of online selling. You can’t avoid it so why not use it to your advantage?
The need to communicate electronically using metadata is not unique to publishers. Every seller website is made up of metadata that describes products. The consumer is searching and viewing information about the product, not the product itself. Behind the scenes, metadata also drives transactions and communication related to commerce. Metadata includes both product description and business communication, two things every business wants to do well.
Think about metadata as:
- Information needed for product description: what the reader/consumer needs to know.
- Information needed for effective commerce: what publishers and their trading partners need to know, track, and analyze for business reasons.
3. Languages have vocabularies, rules, and grammar. Metadata does too.
With any form of communication there must be some shared principles or we would never understand each other.
- To communicate effectively, metadata must have a vocabulary with agreed-upon definitions of what things mean.
- As any editor knows, written language has rules to provide consistency in how meaning is expressed. There are rules and style guides for metadata as well to ensure consistency in how titles, author names, dates, editions, and other information about a book is expressed and displayed to the user.
- Grammar is the structure of language. Structure is especially important in electronic communication. Metadata is structured, with the various pieces of data placed in tagged (named) fields, so that it can be received and interpreted electronically. Well-structured metadata facilitates efficient sharing with multiple trading partners, results in web displays that make sense to the user, and produces data that works correctly behind the scenes in search environments and for business intelligence.
4. The technical component is just one aspect of metadata. You don’t have to be a techie or a data geek to understand the basics of good metadata.
Just as you don’t have to know everything about how websites, Twitter, or Facebook work to be successful in online marketing and web content creation, you don’t have to be an expert in ONIX to create good metadata. Knowledge of your books, your readers, your organization, and your selling partners is still the most important thing.
The biggest hurdle is in understanding what you can and want to communicate with metadata and committing to integrating it into your workflows and systems. There are tools, services, and systems for publishers of any size, but you have to know enough to choose your technology wisely.
5. You already know more about metadata than you think you do!
Creating and distributing metadata is communicating what you know about your books, what you want your readers to know, and what your trading partners need to know, with the goal of helping readers discover, select, and purchase them. Combine your knowledge with available tools and technology to build metadata that works.
The Economics of Metadata
Part 1 of this series addressed findings of the Development, Use, and Modification of Book Product Metadata report relating to changes in metadata as it is first created and distributed by publishers, and then received, ingested, and prepared for use in supply chain partner products, services, and consumer-facing websites.
In the interviews and the survey conducted as a basis for the report, both data senders and data receivers expressed concerns about processes, systems, communication, and overall metadata quality.
Data senders initiating the flow of metadata across the supply chain (most often publishers) and data receivers (mostly downstream selling partners) all want metadata to result in customer engagement and sales. For publishers, metadata literally represents (stands in for) their books and thus represents their investment in the entire publishing process.
In January 2012 the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) commissioned a study to “map the flow of product metadata across the publishing supply chain.” Conducted by Brian O’Leary of Magellan Media Consulting, the study was completed in June 2012. BISG presented an overview of study results in a webcast on June 12 and published the final report, Development, Use, and Modification of Book Product Metadata shortly thereafter.
The “Metadata Lifecycle” diagram seen here is used in The Metadata Handbook to talk about the users of metadata and the flow of metadata across the supply chain. The BISG report raises important issues regarding the lifecycle, purpose(s), and efficacy of metadata across the supply chain. For many of us who have worked within the publisher supply chain in general and with book data in particular for many years, the study validates our concerns about redundancies and inefficiencies in the production and distribution of metadata. It also brings to mind an often-quoted line from the movie Cool Hand Luke: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
DataCurate Resources is a curated list of books, articles, research, organizations, and other resources of interest to publishers and libraries. Featured resources will be selected and displayed on this page each month.
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Check out this month’s featured resources below or browse the entire collection.
by Renée Register and Thad McIlroy
132 pages, illustrated
PDF and other digital formats $95.00
Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked World by Steven Johnson
Riverhead Books, 2012
The Digitization of the Music Industry vs. the Book World: The Ultimate Overview
Written by Timo Boezeman & Niels Aalberts, with important additions and nuances by Erwin Blom, Eric Rigters and Jelte Nieuwenhuis.
FutureBook, November 2011
In case you missed it, this four-part series of blog posts from FutureBook offers good overviews of music and book industry history, describes changes imposed by the rise of digitization, and explores implications for the future of the book.
Big thinking from sci-fi luminary Neal Stephenson regarding the danger of narrow mindsets, risk aversion, and the role of the internet in stifling 21st century innovation.
Brain Pickings curated by Maria Popova
The description on the site expresses the content pretty well! “Brain Pickings is a discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” Follow Maria on twitter and her well-managed tweets - @brainpicker – will keep you apprised of the frequently updated posts.
See more links we like.