This is the first year I can really see changes in my personal book-buying habits. Like many others, I’ve found that I’m buying books more often again. This has a lot to do with the convenience and direct nature of buying ebooks. (Feeling down at midnight no longer requires scavenging closets for books.) But I’m also buying print more and often based on its object-value; I like a well-made book, with diagrams and illustrations, and not too many photos. But why the change?
I think it’s mainly because online book searching is becoming dead easy and retailer-independent. If I decide I like a particular author, subject, or an eccentric/focused publisher, I can (mostly) just buy those books that make sense for me. I’m not feeling limited to buying books offered by a specific retailer. (I prefer to wander my own path.) Yes, it’s a challenge to achieve app-independence with e-tailers, but it can be done. And libraries? I’m looking at libraries again, though not borrowing much yet, which makes me even more curious.
All this ties to a number of new things in my work specialty, metadata. There, all the news is about persistent links and not SEO but improved search. (See: BISG publishing a Keywords Best Practice.) There is work being done to start linking book-focused ONIX metadata to the broader Schema.org meta-tagging that’s given priority in search engines. The book industry keeps talking about the persistent identifiers that matter the most to search engines (i.e., the ISNI for author identification, and the ISTC for work identification), but more than that, the scuttlebutt is increasing on how the ONIX and Schema standards themselves are becoming “linked data.” Their joint best practice updates are all about accuracy, clarity, and ONIX 3.0.
Still, it’s standards work and this will obviously affect publishing over the next decade or more (remembering that it will take another three years to bring the ISBN standard into the state that would have been appropriate a year ago). And much of it is outside the realm of obvious publisher support. But publishers shouldn’t lose sight that the standards community is trying to ensure that the tools are ready when they’re needed. If I can identify changes to my book-buying patterns and realize that they are all in the backend support programming of my life, maybe it’s time to look at what the ROI is for not investing more time in metadata. I’m feeling more confident about the place of books in my life and I can feel the unseen hand goosing me along and moving my pocket book in its mysterious ways. I’d say that publishers should spend some time next year thinking about their metadata, and asking if they are feeling the love from how consumers buy today.