The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing

Trends in Publishing conference, 23 April 2014, Diemen (Netherlands)

The Indexer: The International Journal of Indexing (2014), 32, (3), 133–134.


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Trends in Publishing conference, 23 April 2014, Diemen (Netherlands) Caroline Diepeveen Introduction 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 (‘The end of e-books’) (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 ‘Metadata: wonder-oil for the modern publisher?’; the other (Huub van de Pol), ‘A publisher used to need salespeople, now we have metadata’. The two titles illustrate the current buzz about metadata beautifully. 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 all important. As Jacqueline Remmers put it, ‘Correct and complete information is gold … findability is also gold.’ Correct and complete information implies things such as: • All editions need to have the same name. • The author’s name needs to be spelled correctly and consistently. • Series data needs to be correct. Findability requires SEO (search engine optimization), which means that: • key terms from the title and subtitle need to be selected carefully • sample content (including the index) is needed to ‘seduce’ the reader. 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 Leeuwen’s presentation on the changing role of libraries was also particularly interesting to me. ‘Library’ in Dutch is ‘bibliotheek’, and he talked about a ‘biblify for ebooks’. 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 133

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Diepeveen, Caroline