Newsletter February 2020


Previous newsletters can be found on the EDItEUR website.

London Book Fair logo

The London Book Fair – part of London Book & Screen Week – is the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. In 2020, the Fair takes place on 10–12th March at Olympia in West London.

The Fair covers all aspects of the publishing industry, from rights to publishing, printing, distribution and physical and digital retailing. Each year, the Fair attracts more than 25,000 publishing professionals, and offers an opportunity to explore, understand and capitalise on the innovations shaping the publishing world of the future. LBF brings you direct access to customers, content, suppliers, know-how, and emerging new markets.

Come and meet the EDItEUR staff in our booth – shared once again with BIC and BISG – in our new location on the mezzanine level. We’ll all be on stand 4B02 / 4B04 / 4A05. And if you haven’t registered yet, EDItEUR has a limited number of half-price entry tickets for the Fair – purchase your tickets via this link to take advantage of the offer.

EDItEUR will be holding meetings of the ONIX, Thema and EDItX International Steering Committees during the Fair: these are the key meetings at which our standards work progresses.

And don’t miss BIC’s Building a Greener Business seminar on Thursday 12th March in The Club Room – it’s free, and open to all Fair attendees. The seminar tackles the question, ‘How can book sector organisations increase their sustainability whilst reducing their overall environmental impact?’ The expert speakers – from publishers, printers, distributors and booksellers – will explore this issue, and take attendees on a journey through the environmental lifecycle of a book from creation to consumer.

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ONIX for Books

20 Years of ONIX

Celebrate! ONIX is 20 years old, having been released as a set of Guidelines in January of 2000 by the Association of American Publishers. ONIX International (as it was then called) emerged from EDItEUR as a fully-specified standard a few months later.

ONIX announcement Jan 2000
ONIX announcement Jan 2000

AAP website, 2000, and the original printed guidelines

It’s come a long way – through twenty releases (up to the current version 3.0.7) and 48 issues of the codelists – from the AAP’s Digital Issues working group to adoption in tens of countries and across thousands of publishers, distribution organisations and retailers. But the influence of that initial set of guidelines is still strong – short tags, the <product> record, codelists themselves….

And so much has changed. The guideines were released just as online book retailing was becoming established. Indeed, the challenge of delivering rich product information to online bookstores was one of the drivers for their creation. But ONIX in January 2000 didn’t have product form codes for any purely digital products. It predates 13-digit ISBNs and iPads. And few publishers then appreciated the need for the depth of collateral material that can now be delivered in ONIX.

The future we get is rarely the one we imagine. The supply chain – and even the products themselves – will continue to change. But the commercial need to transmit rich metadata for published products from creator to consumer is likely to remain, and ONIX will continue to evolve to meet new challenges.

Codelists Issue 48 released

In January, EDItEUR published an update to the ONIX controlled vocabularies – the codelists – and preparations for the next release are well advanced.

Issue 48 included:

All the updates have been added to the online codelist browser at, new codelist files are freely downloadable from the EDItEUR website in PDF, HTML, TXT, CSV, XML, JSON formats, and of course they are included with the documentation and XML tools for 3.0.7.

Proposals for Issue 49 have been distributed to the various ONIX National Groups for comments. They include:

The expectation is that these proposals will be ratified by the ONIX International Steering Committee during the London Book Fair, and will be published soon afterwards.

ONIX Application Notes

EDItEUR has published a number of new Application Notes, extended notes on specific aspects of ONIX that focus on specific areas of implementation and best practice. The most recent provides a step-by-step guide to XML validation of ONIX messages, from the most basic DTD checks to using the latest ‘strict’ XSD schema. All the Application Notes can be downloaded from the EDItEUR website.

ONIX news in brief

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1.4 gets closer to launch

The Thema v1.4 working group has been hard at work and meeting regularly since the summer of 2019, to consider and review all and any proposals for additions or changes to the current Thema subject categories. The group has finished its draft, and this has been sent out to be reviewed by the different Thema national groups. There will be a meeting of the Thema International Steering Committee at the London Book Fair, which will decide whether to ratify the proposals or not. If they do, then an updated version of Thema will be published in April as version 1.4. This version, like all previous versions, will remain fully backward compatible with the existing 1.3. If you want to be sure you’ll be informed about publication, sign up for the Thema discusson forum – you’ll be notified of all future changes.

This revision process has added relatively few new core subject categories, but has proposed an extensive set of modifications, both to the headings themselves and to the notes associated with many of the categories. These revisions come from questions that have been asked about usage of particular Thema categories, about categorisation of a particular title, or from feedback provided by groups that have translated Thema. All the proposed modifications are intended to help users by improving the explanation and guidance associated with a category. The notes are visible on all the documentation and the online browser, and play a key part in the use of Thema categories.

New categories have been proposed when there is a real need in the supply chain to distinguish a particular category of titles. It is probably fair to say that there is no title that cannot be categorised at the moment, but sometimes titles have to be assigned more general categories where a bit more precision is desirable, either as a single category or a combinaton of categories.

Much more detail will be available when version 1.4 has been ratified, but here’s a selection of proposed new categories:

Once the final version of the update is published all the new documentation with all the changes and new categories will be available as usual from the EDItEUR website.

Thema 5L qualifiers

Qualifiers are one of the important features of Thema. They allow for greater detail and nuance to be given alongside a core subject category, and the enable interesting ‘facetted’ (filtered) searches by end users. The Interest qualifiers section (5*) comprises a wide variety of qualifiers, and one area that has great potential is the 5L* section – Relating to the Stages of life. Qualifier codes beginning 5L* allow a publisher to say that the content of the book is about a particular stage in our lives. For example, if publishing a book about participating in yoga as a senior or older person, you would use the category VFMG1 – Yoga for exercise along with the qualifier 5LKS – Relating to late adulthood / old age. This isn’t specifically about a target audience – although we are often drawn to titles we can relate to. A title about yoga for older people could appeal primarily to older yogis, but conversely could be aimed at teachers of yoga classes.

The 5L section is also useful when trying to describe children’s or teen fiction that uses the YF* codes – Children’s / Teenage fiction & true stories. One of the key things when choosing a title for children and adolescents is how readers are going to relate to the material or the characters. A novel that features characters and reflect themes of concern to young readers in the ‘tweenager’ years, the passage from childhood to adolescence (roughly ages 10–14) could use the category 5LD – Relating to preteen / tween years, whereas a novel dealing with adolescents and their challenges could use 5LF – Relating to adolescence / teenage years.

Another growth area is fiction featuring characters and issues specifically relating to the early years of adulthood, the years of transition from adolescence to adulthood, maybe leave home, start work or go away to study. But the terminolgy used varies. In some markets, this life stage is termed ‘New adult’, in others ‘Young adult’ now covers younger adults from about 18 to about 30 years old. So if you are publishing ‘New adult romance’ or ‘College Romance’ featuring characters and themes for this generation, you could use the category FRD – Contemporary Romance with 5LKE – Relating to early adulthood. For a fantasy novel featuring people in their twenties, the same 5LKE can be used with an FM* code.

The important thing about all 5L* codes is the content. It is about this generation, but not necessarily marketed solely at this age group or expected to be read only by this generation. Of course, titles aimed at a younger adult audience could also use the interest age qualifiers from the 5A* section, particularly 5AS to 5AU – Interest age: from c. 15 (or 16 or 17) years, with the (adult) F* Fiction codes to indicate titles that appeal to both older teenagers and adults.

Thema news in brief

Aberystwyth and Cardigan Bay

Photo: Welsh Books Council

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Spring meeting of ICEDIS at UKSG Brighton

Owing to a number of timing issues and schedule clashes, it has been some time since we last held a full ICEDIS meeting. We are planning to rectify that by getting together on the afternoon of the final day of the Brighton UK Serials Group meeting. ICEDIS – EDItEUR’s special interest group for the serials publication sector – will therefore meet from 1:30–4pm on Wednesday 1st April, and we would welcome as many of you as possible to attend. The meeting will be held in the Brighton Centre (the venue for UKSG itself) and further details will be circulated nearer the time.

Alongside a status update on ONIX-PC adoption, we hope to bring you a report from the ISSN International Centre, which has recently taken over the running of the Keepers Registry – an invaluable resource describing which e-journals have been archived, and by whom. We will also update you on other EDItEUR activities on ONIX for Books, Thema and ISNI, as well as a wider review of serials-related activities at NISO and beyond. Finally, it feels more than timely to have an open discussion of the role and purpose of ICEDIS itself, against the background of very profound changes over recent years in the serials supply chain.

Please drop a line to Tim Devenport if you plan to attend – we’d love to see you there!

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News from the ISNI International Agency

Alongside its work on the creation and maintenance of standards – most notably, ONIX and Thema – EDItEUR also provides a range of administrative and executive support functions to the ISNI International Agency (ISNI-IA). Here are a few recent highlights of our involvement with the International Standard Name Identifier.

If you would like to know more about ISNI, or to be added to the mailing list for its recently launched ISNI News newsletter, please email Tim Devenport.

ISNI as Linked Open Data

A key objective for ISNI is to make its identifiers and their supporting metadata publicly and openly available for general use. The more visible and discoverable that ISNI information becomes, the better. With this in mind, and being very aware of the growing exploration of Linked Data (LD) methodologies particularly amongst libraries, ISNI is developing alternative, LD routes for accessing its data.

A six-month development effort, undertaken with ISNI’s development partner OCLC and informed by inputs from the LD4P (Linked Data for Production) project in the United States, will soon deliver several ISNI LD outputs and access mechanisms on a CC0 licence waiver basis. The ISNI data will be available in both RDF-XML and JSON-LD ‘flavours’ and the information will be accessible both by API and in the form of periodically-refreshed LD data dumps. If you’d like to know more, or to enhance your triple stores by linking to ISNI data, e-mail ISNI’s leader for this project Corine Deliot at the British Library, or Tim Devenport.

New members for ISNI

Interest in ISNI membership continues to increase as the standard is adopted or rolled out more widely. A consortium of the leading university libraries in the Netherlands, represented by SURFmarket, has signed up for ISNI membership, bringing at least academic 13 libraries into the ISNI fold. ISNI also hopes soon to welcome the group of legal deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland, affiliating with ISNI in a joint effort coordinated by the British Library (which is already a Registration Agency in its own right).

Outside the library world, ISNI is also in advanced discussions with a number of organizations in the music industry, one of which Quansic (located in Switzerland) joined late in 2019. We are also keen to extend the territories where ISNI is directly represented, and have dialogues underway with prospective Registration Agencies in both South America and Australasia.

ISNIs in UK book publishing and cataloguing workflows

Early February saw the latest meeting of the British Library-coordinated project to kickstart the use of ISNIs in trade publishing. As mentioned in previous Newsletters, a growing number of major UK publishers have been taking part in pilot exchanges of contributor data with BL and ISNI. These have demonstrated increasingly high levels of automated matching – with typically 70–75% of contributor names linked to existing ISNIs – and reassuringly low levels of uncertainty or error. This is particularly so – as might be expected – for established authors for whom ISNIs have often already been assigned via library cataloguing efforts. The matched ISNIs returned to the publishers can then be imported into their product management applications and re-output as part of their normal ONIX feed for the supply chain. Retailers in receipt of the data can then be certain about the identity of authors and other contributors, for example when creating ‘author pages’ in their online stores, rather than accidentally conflating separate contributors who share the same name.

Big names already involved include HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Hachette, CUP, Macmillan, Canongate and Bloomsbury, with input from data aggregator BDS. The data requirements are not onerous: UK publishers need a sizeable list of contributors, with a well-defined internal identifier and ONIX contributor roles. If you’d like to know more, or to get your organization directly involved, please e-mail Graham Bell or Tim Devenport for details.

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New members

United Nations Publications

One of the purposes of the United Nations, as reflected in its Charter, is to ‘achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character’, and the Organization publishes knowledge products – printed and digital books, databases and other resources – to advance these goals. The publications cover subjects as diverse as international peace and security, human rights, gender issues, economic and social development, international trade, climate change, international law, governance, public health, transportation, and statistics. They include time-sensitive reports that capture the state of the global economy and welfare of people and the planet, and the primary audiences for these publications are scholars, information specialists, researchers, policymakers and influencers. UN Publications promotes the work and knowledge of the UN through marketing, sales and distribution of its publications, data and merchandise.

Forthcoming Events

London Book Fair

10-12 March, Olympia, Hammersmith Road, Kensington, London, W14 8UX
The London Book Fair is the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels. Further details from To take advantage of EDItEUR’s half-price entry tickets for the Fair, register via this link.

Tech Forum

23–25 March, MaRS Discovery District, 101 College Street, Toronto, ON M5G 1L7, Canada
Canada’s largest book industry conference with a focus on technology, data, and collaboration. Now in its 14th year, it provides hundreds of book industry professionals with the opportunity to learn, debate, network, and glimpse the future of our industry. Tech Forum now also fully incorporates ebookcraft, a conference-within-a-conference for digital publishing professionals. Further details, the full schedule and registration from the conference website

Tech Forum includes a set of short ONIX: intensive training sessions led by Chris Saynor, on topics including accessibility metadata, open access, ONIX for marketing, audio metadata and ONIX block updates.

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For further details, contact

Graham Bell, Executive Director, EDItEUR
United House
North Road
London, N7 9DP
Office: +44 20 7503 6418
Mobile: +44 7887 754958

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