Trends in Publishing conference,
23 April 2014, Diemen (Netherlands)
The Trends in Publishing conference, organised by Inct.
formatie, a Dutch platform for publishers, is an annual
event, but this was the first I had attended, lured by a
programme packed with sessions on ebooks, the changing
role of libraries, and metadata for books. With so much
to choose from, I focused on the two presentations on
book metadata. As in Het Einde van Ebooks (â€˜The end
of e-booksâ€™) (reviewed on page 138), indexing was never
mentioned directly, but nonetheless I found a lot that was of
relevance for indexing.
Metadata for books
The two metadata presentations gave me, a newcomer to
the subject, a pretty good introduction to book metadata
and led me to realize that indexes are themselves metadata.1
Can we capitalize on this idea? I think we can, provided that
we know how metadata are handled by publishers.
Quite simply, metadata for books are data about books.
For publishers, providing book retailers with such metadata
(on the Web or on the high street) is the modern way of
marketing their books. One of the presentations (Jacqueline Remmers) was entitled â€˜Metadata: wonder-oil for
the modern publisher?â€™; the other (Huub van de Pol), â€˜A
publisher used to need salespeople, now we have metadataâ€™.
The two titles illustrate the current buzz about metadata
Metadata can be all sorts of information about a book,
such as price, author(s), delivery conditions and related
products, but can also include content-related data such as a
table of contents, back cover text or an index. The exchange
of data is digital, via standardized exchange formats such as
Onix and XML, but the input of the data is done by humans.
This human factor is, of course, the weak link in the system.
Unless publishers are extremely disciplined in creating the
metadata, things can go awry and much diminish the value
of the exercise. To mention a few problems related just
to author names, these might be misspelled (as indexers,
of course we know all about this), authors are sometimes
known under different names or variations of the same
name, and there might be different authors with the same
name. But of course author names are by no means the
only source of trouble, since there are many other problems
related to different sorts of metadata.
Book metadata are available to the retailers, but also
to consumers on the Internet. This implies a different
marketing perspective for the publisher, who has been used
to communicating with the book retailer but now also has
to know how to communicate directly with the potential
The Indexer Vol. 32 No. 3 September 2014
purchaser. Publishers used to compile catalogues of their
titles two or three times a year. This focus on catalogues
is now something of the past, and a different approach is
required, not just for the sales and marketing people, but for
everyone at the publishers, including staff such as the desk
editors. When selling books online, the findability of titles is
As Jacqueline Remmers put it, â€˜Correct and complete
information is gold â€¦ findability is also gold.â€™ Correct and
complete information implies things such as:
â€¢ All editions need to have the same name.
â€¢ The authorâ€™s name needs to be spelled correctly and
â€¢ Series data needs to be correct.
Findability requires SEO (search engine optimization),
which means that:
â€¢ key terms from the title and subtitle need to be selected
â€¢ sample content (including the index) is needed to â€˜seduceâ€™
Other sessions of interest
There were two other presentations that I found of particular interest. One was by Harrie van Luxemburg, chief
operational officer at Kluwer Legal Division. Harrie studied
technical physics and before joining Kluwer was head of
the call centre division at ING Bank, where he was also
responsible for developing a mobile banking app. This is
not exactly a traditional career path for a publisher. He
talked about the Kluwer online legal data, of interest to
me because I have indexed loose-leaf legal publications for
Kluwer in the past. Those loose-leaf publications are now
extinct. When this type of indexing work stopped, it was
all about full online text search. I was happy to learn that
Kluwer has realized that full text search is not the answer.
Harrie talked about the Kluwer Navigator the company had
designed for searching its online legal data. Unfortunately
his talk did not include a demonstration of this, which I
would have found of great interest.
Diederik van Leeuwenâ€™s presentation on the changing
role of libraries was also particularly interesting to me.
â€˜Libraryâ€™ in Dutch is â€˜bibliotheekâ€™, and he talked about a
â€˜biblify for ebooksâ€™. The Dutch library sector is currently
building a digital library consisting of databases, emusic and
ebooks. His talk centred around the licensing of ebooks and
what this means for publishers, and what library members
will have to pay for borrowing any of this content. This was