Publisher Dominique Raccah’s eBooks and the digital transformation has good words on metadata, deep down in the article, that deserve a shout-out (Thanks to Nancy Picchi for flagging this in her tweet). The quote is striking for the clear, simple description of the importance of metadata for publishers (which transfers easily to libraries, since metadata quality is certainly one of the criteria libraries will want to consider in collecting eBooks). Excerpts from Raccah, boldface added:
Metadata may have become my favorite word in recent years. Most publishing companies of any reasonable size these days have a person or persons who are responsible for nothing but “metadata.” So what is metadata? Metadata is all the information/content related to a specific book, from the title, author name, and ISBN all the way through the description, marketing copy, author bio, and images you see for a book on an e-tailer’s site. eBook buyers run into metadata problems all the time – it seems like it’s the book you want, but there’s no description, no cover image, and hmmm, I think that might not even be the right author.
Metadata has long been a dominant theme in libraries, going back to subject headings in the card catalog. The purpose of headings, of course, was to help users discover books on library shelves. Now, with eBooks, the process of discovery is more difficult, since browsing of physical books on the shelf is not possible. So people in libraries are talking more intentionally about discoverability in the digital age and seeing metadata and discoverability as important tools in marketing the library. As with libraries, digital discovery and metadata have also assumed new importance for people in publishing, as they work to market their eBooks. Raccah’s comments are a clear reflection of this:
If you remember only one thing from reading this article, let it be this: metadata really matters for eBooks. On the web, reading with your e-reader, on your phone or however/wherever you access ebooks, discovery is everything. Unlike in a physical bookstore where you can browse shelves and find that next perfect book that you want to read, how you find a book online (whether a physical book or a digital book) is all about metadata. So making sure all those descriptive pieces are correct and where they’re supposed to be really matters.
Raccah’s comments, I think, are an example of the converging interests of publishers and librarians, as both realize the importance of metadata in providing access to digital resources. I especially appreciated this intermingling at the recent Books in Browsers conference (where Raccah was one of the presenters) — A highlight was Brian O’Leary’s keynote talk on the theme of context, as it relates to discoverability, tagging, and metadata.
Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey