Building your metadata on stone

EDItEUR's April newsletter has some of the most exciting news I've heard for a long time. Amazon's European stores are adopting the Thema subject classification system and publishing an internal "browse by subject" tree to show how they use the subject classifications.

This is great news and Thema is a great system capable of providing every bit as good a subject system as BISAC does for North America — better if you consider it internationally and even within our market for using Canadian national extensions.


"At BIC’s Building a Better Business seminar at the London Book Fair, Amazon Books announced that its internal subject classification scheme for its European storefronts is now closely aligned with Thema, and so Amazon encourages publishers to provide Thema subject codes in their metadata. Isabel Gouveia of Amazon also introduced Amazon’s Browse Tree Guides, which illustrate how Amazon will classify each book and where it will appear in its 'browse by subject’ tree, based on its Thema code and keywords. These guides are available via Amazon publisher liaison.

"It should be stressed that this is for Amazon’s European stores only, but it represents another key adoption of Thema as an international and multilingual subject scheme."

So not here. Not yet.  

Canadian publishers have been adopting Thema, and the quality of the data they supply is improving, but the bulk of ISBNs sold in Canada come from US sources and Thema codes are not supplied for the majority of these. Thema codes are represented in about 10% of the data in BiblioShare and that small percentage isn't a tide that carries change forward. It's unlikely that Canadian (or US) retailers will follow suit soon.  

It's the same issue that bedevils ONIX 3.0 development — few publishers are updating their metadata to take advantage of the better support for basic metadata that system offers. True, there are some remarkably complex price and supply statements out there to support digital products, and, I can say anecdotally, there are a fair amount of errors within their complexity. But there has been little change around the basics of author, series, subjects, audience, and markets. Yes, publishers are now supplying keywords, but are they thinking about how to integrate retailer subject classifications with keywords to help support retail sales?

I would suggest you have a plan and implement systematic improvements. Consider improving support for the basics before developing support for more complex metadata. That's the sort of thing a retailer can reward with published feedback and reduced costs to the supply chain.