At BookNet, we sometimes find ourselves trying to defend ONIX. People are often asking, “Why can’t it be easy?” But it is. After the last time I heard this I thought that a review of why ONIX is easy was due.
The ONIX standard is a business communication tool, a type of contract. Other companies make business decisions based on it. If the price, rights and trading relationships in it are inaccurate or sloppy, it can cause companies to lose money and trading partners. If the descriptions and information used to sell the products are wrong, it causes customer complaints and problems for the companies selling the product.
An ONIX file contains material that will be presented to consumers, clients and business partners, without any vetting after it leaves your hands. Not only that, but it can be an enduring record that continues to support the product for as long as you are selling it.
So, why can’t you just dump your data into some webform? Well, you can. The easiest way I can think of approaching this is to refer to Bowker’s webform and data output services. Or you can use software, such as ONIXEdit that has many great features, but at it’s heart is just a series of slots to fill in. You can also simply follow the manual and <tag>copy</tag> by hand.
There’s nothing difficult about an XML file: You use digital characters that can be recognized by other programs. You spend a minute using free software to do a validation. It will tell you if you made a mistake in the XML structure and it checks your codes and ensures entities are clean to boot. Giving another company a valid XML document means it can simply and rapidly be loaded into their system—without their needing to vet it. And that’s it.
Companies that load your ONIX assume you know what’s between the tags and why it’s supposed to be there. And that’s really what’s most people find hard, but it doesn’t have to take much time. Unless you want to be represented on-line, in print and in reviews, casually without thought and proofing, then no matter how you create an ONIX file you need to think about what you’re putting into it.
Most ONIX records contain 100 to 150 distinct pieces of information and each one needs to be understood and used with intent.
Best way to understand what to include: Read the documentation available from BookNet—and review the relevant ONIX manual sections.
Best way to ensure you meet the needs of the Canadian supply chain: Use the BNC BiblioShare Quality Report as it will do its automated best to show up areas not covered in the file.
We bend over backwards to make this “easy” with lots of feedback loops. And everyone at BookNet loves questions—nothing is too basic and the nerdier the better!