Wouter Verkerk

ONIX 3.0 Gains Momentum

A small, almost unnoticeable change is happening in the book publishing world. Yet this small change has the potential to have a great and lasting impact on the industry.

The Background

In the 1990s, EDitEUR (the international group coordinating development of the standards infrastructure for electronic commerce in the book, e-book and serials sectors) introduced a standard called ONIX to communicate metadata about books. Over time, the ONIX standard has gained a global acceptance in the book world. EDitEUR has been faithfully updating the standard to handle changes in the book industry, such as introducing support for e-books when they became popular.

In 2009, EDitEUR released the current 3.0 version of ONIX. Most of the world has been working towards adopting the ONIX 3.0 standard. However, one of the largest players in the book industry, Amazon, opted to wait to adopt the new standard and continued to use ONIX 2.1. Other senders and recipients in the supply chain followed their lead and chose to also keep using the ONIX 2.1 standard.

Amazon to Support ONIX 3.0 (Finally)

The small change referred to in the opening of this article is that Amazon has told its supply chain that they need to adopt ONIX 3.0 by December 2020. For now, this change is only for print products, but Amazon has stated that it expects support for digital products to be implemented quickly after that. Amazon is going to continue extending the range of metadata fields it extracts from ONIX. This may impact data recipients that are only equipped to handle ONIX 2.1, as data suppliers could choose to start sending the metadata only in the ONIX 3.0 format.

This change is a welcome one in the book industry as ONIX 3.0 is better suited to handle additional book metadata, especially as it relates to digital products.

Graham Bell, Executive Director at EDItEUR, noted: “EDItEUR welcomes the news that Amazon is ending its support for ONIX 2.1 for physical books by the end of 2020. While we recognize that this may cause issues for a small proportion of publishers using legacy product information management systems, concentration of development effort solely on the latest ONIX 3.0 will benefit the industry as a whole. Almost all major off-the-shelf software systems already support ONIX 3.0, and publishers and retailers who use the newer version can make use of a richer range of metadata to boost discoverability and conversion. Amazon’s announcement of support for the ONIX Acknowledgement message also provides an opportunity for greater automation of the choreography of ONIX message exchanges."

A 2016 Nielson study showed that providing additional metadata about books increased book sales. Since the study was done, we can assume that in this digital age with powerful search algorithms, the effect of good metadata has only been magnified.

Advantage Has Supported ONIX 3.0 From the Start

When Advantage decided to implement the full ONIX 3.0 standard, we opted to have it natively handle ONIX 3.0 and made it backwards compatible with ONIX 2.1. In addition, when new codelists are released, we are able to upload them into our software in order to keep current. This means that our clients using ONIX will have an easier time providing Amazon with data in the new ONIX 3.0 standard (provided Amazon doesn’t deviate too much from the standard).

In addition to implementing the full ONIX 3.0 standard, we also set up our web commerce platform, Cider, to handle accepting ONIX 3.0 metadata to display additional data about the products. This means that updates to ONIX metadata in Advantage are directly reflected in our eCommerce solution.

Advantage client InterVarsity Press uses ONIX functionality. Tricia Koning, Director, Information Technology at IVP explains: “Advantage has partnered with us to develop a strong base for producing ONIX 3.0 files and has also worked to cultivate an extract for the older 2.1 format. Having ONIX integrated with Cider means that a single source of the metadata provides consistency between our public website and our ONIX dependent partners.”

We are looking forward to seeing how this positive change will positively impact our clients’ bottom lines. For more information on how Cider handles ONIX 3.0, contact your AdvantageCS account manager.

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