Standards in the Digital Supply Chain

Sarah O'Keefe / ConferencesLeave a Comment

Michael Healy, Book Industry Study Group

Supply chain; that is, how does an idea go from an author’s mind into a book, has been largely ignored. But if supply chain is a high priority for other industries, why do we ignore it in book publishing?

Publishers like to stand above these uninteresting details and would rather focus on content.

Book publishing has high costs, low margins, and little growth. Plus something additional fairly grim statistics that basically show a stagnant business (at best). These conditions should cause a greater focus on supply chain effectiveness, since this could be the key to profitability.

Supply chain requires standards. Otherwise, you have “disconnected and inefficient” transactions.

The ISBN is a standard since the 1960s. Most successful product identifier in any industry. He sees this as a foundation for online book sellers, electronic card catalogs, and other features. There are standards for location information and for product description and communication (ONIX). EDI has made business-to-business communication cheaper and more reliable. These and other standards have been helpful in improving efficiency, reducing cost, and selling more books.

What will tomorrow’s supply chain look like? A digital supply chain will look different from a supply chain for printed books. But how do you move content from the author to the user’s desktop?

As the amount of content increases, there needs to be great improvement in the supply chain. Book sellers are not happy with the information provided about books by the publishers today. How much more difficult will this be when books are shredded and provided chapter by chapter?

Coming in 2008, we have the International Standard Name Identifier. Will support unambiguous identification of individuals. It also addresses the problem of pseudonyms, a group of authors writing under a single name, and different authors with the same name. (There’s very little information online that I can find, but here’s a Wikipedia entry.)

The International Standard Text Code, which is an identifier for a work, not a manifestation. The ISBN would be different for hard-cover versus soft-cover, but the ISTC would be the same.

Together, the ISNI and ISTC will help manage the proliferation of formats.

He sees an emergence of digital repositories, such as the one described by John Ingram in an earlier session. BISG now has a Digital Standards Group that is working on developing infrastructure for this digital world. They are working on an open-source messaging protocol to help content producers and content “displayers” to communicate with each other for easy and consistent search, retrieval, and display.

Managing permissions online requires policies, which could be assumed (implied license), enforced (with protection), and they should be expressed. The Automated Content Access Protocol is looking at how to create a machine-readable expression of permissions. You might think of it as an alternative to a robots.txt file.

ONIX for Licensing Terms expresses license terms for electronic publications used in libraries.

Lack of standards leads to inefficiencies and unnecessary costs. Many existing standards are relevant for digital content.

This was a good review of standards coming down the pipe. Not as exciting as the future book presentation, but nothing else has been, either.

About the Author

Sarah O'Keefe

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Content strategy consultant and founder of Scriptorium Publishing. Bilingual English-German, voracious reader, water sports, knitting, and college basketball (go Blue Devils!). Aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.

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