ONIX for Books is an international standard for exchanging important information about books and related products.
ONIX stands for ONline Information eXchange and is an XML-based language used for computer-to-computer communication. Since it is XML-based, it follows the same rules we outlined last week in BNC 101: What is XML?
ONIX doesn’t do anything; instead, it lets you describe what something is.
ONIX is a way of tagging information about your books—such as the ISBN, title, contributor, description, price, and availability. All of this data is needed to support the sale of your books in the supply chain, but it is also becoming more and more visible as websites and catalogues can use this metadata to populate their pages.
Where can you see ONIX?
Look at any major online retailer: all of the information that’s there is from an ONIX file. ONIX is also the information you see about a title in BNC SalesData. Soon, you’ll also be able to see it in BNC CataList and the ACP’s 49th Shelf.
Why is ONIX important?
ONIX is crucial for effective marketing and for communicating with retailers and the customer.
The Sales Side
ONIX is how you transfer all of the information about your books that is needed to support sales. Here, I’m talking about information, such as:
- Embargo dates
- Expected shipping dates
- Prices in different currencies
- Publication dates
- Rights information
- Suppliers for countries and territories
Example: Have you reduced a price? Updating it in your ONIX file lets a retailer know about it and could influence them to increase their order.
The Marketing Side
ONIX is also important for marketing since it allows you to include information that goes beyond the basics, such as:
- Canadian authorship
- First chapters
- Initial print runs
- Links to images, video, and audio
- More titles from the same author
- Other formats that the book is available in
- Promotions information
- Reviews and endorsements
- Series and sets
- Similar titles
- And the list goes on…
Example: Neglecting to include Candian authorship and other regional information means that your titles will not appear in important discoverability platforms like the Canadian Bookshelf.
Everything you should be including in an ONIX file is information you already have, but for some reason a lot of publishers leave it out.
How can you make your ONIX files better?
- Don’t make the ONIX file the responsibility of the one techy person in the office. Instead, make it something everyone is responsible for throughout the life cycle of the book. An editor, publicist, rights associate, and sales manager all have different material they can add and update in an ONIX file.
- Put the information in as you get it instead of creating the ONIX file at the end of the process. You can create the ONIX file at acquisition and fill it out as material comes in.
- Update your file when something changes and send it to your trading partners again—it should always be up-to-date.
- Proofread your ONIX files. I’m serious—the sloppy errors that can be found in ONIX files are horrendous.
ONIX was originally developed in 2000 by the Association of American Publishers and EDItEUR. The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) in the US and Book Industry Communication (BIC) in the UK joined the team after that, and now there are representatives from around the world, including: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the Republic of Korea.
- Book Industry Study Group (BISG) Product Metadata Best Practices for Senders
- BNC ONIX Guidebook
- BNC’s ONIX Information
- Canadian Bibliographic Standard
- ONIX Code Lists
You can find all of our introductory blog posts in the BNC 101 category.