ONIX for Books

ONIX for Books is the international standard for representing and communicating book industry product information in electronic form. ONIX for Books was developed and is maintained by EDItEUR, jointly with Book Industry Communication (UK) and the Book Industry Study Group (U.S.), and has user groups in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the Republic of Korea.

In April 2009, EDItEUR announced the release of a major new version of the ONIX for Books standard: ONIX 3.0. This release of ONIX is the first since 2001 that is not backwards-compatible with its predecessors and, more importantly, provides a means for improved handling of digital products. A revised version (3.0.1) was subsequently released in January 2012.

January 2013 -- ONIX Codelist Issue 20 is available for use with ONIX 2.1 and ONIX 3.0.1. A complete list of the changes between Issue 19 and Issue 20 of the codelists, plus PDF and HTML versions of the complete set of codelists, can be downloaded from the EDItEUR website.

This issue provides an alternative way to specify rental prices that do not require numerous separate product records for each different rental period (the previous method is still valid and is still the recommended way of managing rental prices when an individual identifier is required for each price/rental period). This issue also introduces a very small number of additional codes requested by national groups. The built-in codelists have also been updated in the various documentation packages, schemas and DTDs, for both ONIX 2.1 (including the Supply Update) and all versions of ONIX 3.0.

January 2013 -- EDItEUR is exploring the requirements for an ONIX 'acknowledgement' message, sent by ONIX data recipients to data senders, in reply to a normal ONIX 2.1 or ONIX 3.0 message. This message would be entirely optional, but if implementation is agreed between sender and recipient, would enable senders of ONIX messages to receive a reply confirming that their message had been received and actioned. It could, depending on details of the design of the acknowledgement message, allow recipients of ONIX data to warn senders of errors in the data that prevent ingestion into their systems, or to confirm that there were no errors and that all the data had been updated in the recipient systems.

Anyone interested in helping develop such a reply message is encouraged to email Graham Bell of EDItEUR at graham@editeur.org. At this stage, EDItEUR is particularly interested in details of how such a message might be used, more formal use cases or lists of requirements, what types of errors or queries might be returned to the sender of the original message, and views on how granular error or query reporting should be.

Large-scale ONIX data recipients are asked to provide information about the most common types of message-level or record-level errors and queries that might be encoded into standard codelists.

September 2011 -- EDItEUR has provided a comprehensive set of implementation guidelines and recommended best practives for ONIX 3.0.1. Click here to learn more.

The ONIX 3.0.1 Specification and the associated Implementation and Best Practice Guide have been updated to include the latest XML namespace recommended for use with ONIX for Books. The Specification is available as in PDF or HTML format from this page on the EDItEUR website, and the Guide is available as HTML. Click here to download the documents.

Even if you do not use XML namespaces, you should download the PDF version of the ONIX 3.0.1 specification, as it now includes various documentation improvements that were previously only available in the HTML version of the specification.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is ONIX for Books?

ONIX is an acronym for ONline Information EXchange. ONIX for Books refers to a standard format that publishers can use to distribute electronic information about their books to wholesale, e-tail and retail booksellers, other publishers, and anyone else involved in the sale of books. ONIX enables book information to be communicated between different organizations even if they have different technical infrastructures and business needs. It isn't a database, but provides a standard XML template for organizing data storage.

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Why was ONIX for Books created?

ONIX was developed as a solution to two modern problems:

  • the need for richer book data online
  • the widely varying format requirements for receiving this data used by the major book wholesalers and retailers

With the advent of the Internet and the explosion of online book sales, the book industry found itself in the following quandary: how to meet the needs of booksellers to provide information to book buyers about the books they wish to purchase. In the brick and mortar world, the jacket cover of a book contains much of the promotional information about that book -- cover design, synopsis, reviews, author biography and more. This information (i.e., the book metadata) draws the potential reader into a book and helps to sell it. Online, the physical book has been replaced with a web page devoted to the book that can be designed to carry all the rich information of the jacket cover, plus audio and video files pertaining to the book. Research has proven that the more information customers have about a book, the more likely they are to buy it. ONIX provides a way to transmit this information in a clean and seamless way across multiple trading partner relationships.

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What is the goal of ONIX for Books?

ONIX was specifically created to conquer the challenge of getting the information-rich promotional material about each book from publishers to booksellers when each major industry database company (such as Ingram, Bowker and Amazon) had a different format preference for receiving the data. The lack of standard formatting made it difficult and time-consuming for publishers to format and exchange their book information with multiple trading partners. The goal of ONIX, therefore, is to standardize the transmission of product information so that wholesalers, retailers and others in the supply chain will all be able to accept information electronically transferred in ONIX format.

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What can ONIX for Books tell us?

ONIX can describe many things about a book, including:

  • title
  • author
  • ISBN
  • price
  • availability
  • blurb, reviews and extracts
  • BISAC Subject Codes
  • Territorial rights
  • links to websites and book cover images
  • ...and more!

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How did ONIX for Books originate?

Throughout 1999, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) worked together with the major wholesalers, online retailers and book information service providers to create a universal, international format through which all publishers, regardless of their size, could exchange information about books. The group unveiled ONIX 1.0 in January 2000.

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What organizations are currently responsible for ONIX for Books?

ONIX is now published and maintained by EDItEUR in association with BISG in the U.S. and BIC in the UK. The latest version of ONIX is referred to as ONIX for Books or ONIX International. The U.S. book industry provides technical input and support for ONIX via BISG's Metadata Committee.

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How does ONIX for Books work?

The standard allows for a publisher to use either of two standards - Level 1 or Level 2. Level 1 contains all the information in Level 2. Standard data elements in Level 1 are targeted to publishers who have not established an in-house database of product information. Level 2 is targeted for those publishers who feel that Level 1 data elements are not adequate. The ONIX standard defines both a list of data fields about a book and how to send that data in an "ONIX message". ONIX specifies over 200 data elements, each of which has a standard definition, so that everyone can be sure they're referring to the same thing. Some of these data elements, such as ISBN, author name, and title, are required; others, such as book reviews and cover image, remain optional. While most data elements consist of text (e.g., contributor biography), many are multimedia files, such as images and audio files. It is particularly these optional fields- excerpts, reviews, cover images, author photos, etc.- that lead to more sales online. An ONIX message is a set of data elements defined by "tags" that is written in the computer language XML (eXtensible Markup Language) and that conforms to a specific template, or set of rules, also known as the ONIX DTD (Document Type Definition). The DTD defines, among other things, how to order the data elements, and how the elements are interrelated. Although ONIX specifies over 200 possible data elements, BISG has identified only 31 as best practice. To view detailed guidelines for all 31 best practice data elements, click here to download Product Metadata Best Practices.

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Why does ONIX for Books use XML?

ONIX uses XML for a number of reasons:

  • XML is optimized for creating complex documents and transmitting and exchanging data between computers.
  • XML is text-readable, meaning that humans as well as computers can recognize and read the data. Most tags, which define each book data element, consist of English words or abbreviations- for instance, an ONIX message would list the Publisher's name as follows: " Scribner's ". These factors make it easier for smaller organizations to design and implement ONIX-compliant systems.
  • XML software is inexpensive, meaning that even smaller publishers can use it, which was a major goal of the Metadata Committee

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How is an ONIX for Books message created?

Creating an ONIX message involves two steps:

  • organizing the book data into ONIX-specified fields and storing it in a database;
  • using an XML software application and the ONIX DTD (the set of rules) to organize and tag that data.

A single ONIX message may contain data about multiple books.

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How is an ONIX for Books message transmitted/received?

An ONIX message is transmitted across networks and the Internet the same way other data is -- for instance, as an email attachment or by ftp (file transfer protocol). Once an ONIX message is received by, say, an online retailer, the same tools (an XML software application and the ONIX DTD) are used to verify the data's integrity. From that point, the retailer translates that data into what you see on a web page. (The matter of how much of the data is displayed on their web page is strictly up to the retailer.)

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What is the future of ONIX for Books?

The international book industry has made ONIX the accepted means for transferring data between trading partners. Major online booksellers, such as Amazon, BN.com and Borders have adopted ONIX. Major wholesalers and catalog publishers, such as Ingram and R.R. Bowker, have also adopted the ONIX. Wider industry acceptance will lead to increased efficiencies in the transfer of book data, which will ultimately benefit book sales. Future issues to be addressed include adding standards for electronic books, video and incorporating concepts of digital rights. In addition, processes for certifying that transmitted data is valid and correct are being developed. ONIX will continue to evolve as needs are identified.

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Which companies use ONIX for Books in the US?

There are a number of organizations and individual operations that use ONIX in the US. The following is a list of some, but not all:

  • Amazon.com
  • American Booksellers Association (ABA)
  • Association of American Publishers (AAP)
  • Association of American University Presses (AAUP)
  • American Wholesale Booksellers Association
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Bowker
  • Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA)
  • Google
  • Hachette Book Group
  • Harcourt Trade Publishing
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • Ingram Book Company
  • Library of Congress
  • McGraw-Hill Companies
  • MUZE, Inc.
  • Nielsen BookScan
  • Penguin Group (USA)
  • Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group
  • Simon and Schuster

To involve your organization, please contact BISG.

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Where can I find the complete ONIX for Books standard?

Currently, ONIX is now published and maintained by EDItEUR in association with BISG in the U.S. and BIC in the UK. The latest version of ONIX is referred to as ONIX for Books. Click here to view and download the latest release: ONIX for Books 3.0.

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Where can I go for further information?

An e-forum called the ONIX Users' Listserv has been created to allow those implementing ONIX to ask questions of other users and the ONIX Technical Consultants. The forum is open to all current and prospective users of the standards. Feel free to contact the BISG office with any general questions.

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FURTHER RESOURCES FOR ONIX IMPLEMENTERS

Product Metadata Best Practices Detailed instructions for improving the accuracy of data throughout the supply chain while speeding the processing of that data among trading partners.


ONIX Administrators

The organizations responsible for the development, promotion and implementation of ONIX within the international book industry are:

Europe : EDItEUR is an international organization with European origins that coordinates the development, promotion, and implementation of EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) in the books and serials sectors. It helps maintain ONIX for the European and international communities.

United Kingdom: Book Industry Communication (BIC) is based in the U.K. and was organized and is sponsored by The Publishers Association, The Booksellers Association, The Library Association, and The British Library to develop and promote standards for electronic commerce and communication in the book and serials industry. It helps maintain ONIX for the European and international communities.

United States: The Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG) currently maintains ONIX for the US publishing industry. As a membership-supported, not-for-profit research organization comprised of several sectors from the publishing community, its goal is to provide accurate and current research information about the industry for its members and others.