By Marie Bilde | @MarieBilde
How Much Can Improved Metadata Help Sell?Next week, Nielsen Book is expected to make a presentation of a first-time US edition of its white paper, The Link Between Metadata and Sales, at EDItEUR’s International Supply Chain Seminar at Frankfurt Book Fair Hall 4.C, Room Concorde. The event is scheduled for 1 to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday (October 18).
EDItEUR coordinates development of international standards infrastructure for e-commerce in several sectors of publishing and is based in London.
While the forthcoming Nielsen white paper’s look at the American market is new, the first edition of the document for the UK market was produced in 2011 and 2012. And last month, Andre Breedt, director of Nielsen Book Research International, gave a preview of the 2016 UK edition at a New Trends in Publishing seminar on September 6.
The seminar was arranged by BIC, as the UK’s Book Industry Communication group is called, an independent British supply chain organization. The event at central London’s Stationers’ Hall in had approximately 70 attendees.
The Nielsen white paper addresses how the presence—or absence—of different types of metadata may impact a book’s sales performance. As something new, the 2016 edition also looks at the link between metadata and library borrowings.
Nielsen Book officials say they store some 27 million records of publishers’ bibliographic metadata. At the same time, they collect sales information through Nielsen BookScan, and they collect library lending information through Nielsen LibScan.
The study focuses on the 100,000 bestselling titles—in print only—over one year from July 2015 to June 2016. Likewise, the analysis of metadata impact on library borrowings has focused on the 100,000 most frequently borrowed titles in the same period.
The 100,000 top selling titles correspond to only 7 percent of the total ISBN count—Nielsen is the ISBN agency for the UK. The top-selling sample accounts for as much as 91 percent of the total sales volume in the period, Nielsen says.
Breedt reminded the audience that Nielsen’s study cannot take into account variations in the book market, the unique character (or the opposite) of a given title, the general state of the book market from year to year, and so on: It cannot make any assumptions on the quality of books or their metadata. These statistics, in other words, can only be built on knowing whether a particular type of metadata is present or not.
This means that the findings can be seen only as correlations. No conclusions regarding causality are planned for the white paper.
Nevertheless, the numbers are clear enough to show us trends, and as it was the case in 2012, the statistics tells us that the presence of some well-defined sets of metadata may indeed have an impact on book sales and library borrowings.
Nielsen Book has agreed to allow Publishing Perspectives to share a selection of the new results with our readers.
Cover Image Is Everything
When comparing sales numbers for books released with or without a complete set of the so-called “BIC Basic” metadata or a cover image, the result clearly indicates that the cover image is the single most important item publishers can release to the supply chain with a book. The impact of criteria termed “BIC completeness” is less clear, but as almost 84 percent of the books in the sample are “BIC complete,” this is not surprising.
The presence of a cover image also corresponds to the highest average number of library borrowings, as it does to sales.
The impact of “BIC completeness” and a cover image on both the number of copies sold and borrowed is most significant for fiction, followed by trade nonfiction and children’s/YA. The numbers indicate a comparatively small or no impact on specialized nonfiction.
ONIX standards, in EDItEUR material, are explained to be “designed to support computer-to-computer communication between parties involved in creating, distributing, licensing or otherwise making available intellectual property in published form, whether physical or digital.”
In addition to the “BIC Basic” elements, “ONIX Compliant” records should provide at least one descriptive data element. “ONIX Compliance,” like “BIC Basic” includes a measurement of timeliness. This is set at 16 weeks, or 112 days, ahead of publication.
In the new edition of the metadata white paper, Nielsen Book takes a closer look at the timeliness of book records and the effect on the average number of copies sold (or borrowed). The data shows that books with all the key metadata elements and distributed on time, had a slightly higher average number of copies sold than those issued later.
When looking at “ONIX Compliance” and timeliness, titles that are compliant show average sales 95 percent higher than those that don’t. For titles that also meet the timeliness requirement, the average sales are a further 25-percent higher.
The white paper also contains a comparison of sales performance for books released with zero to four pieces of what’s called descriptive metadata.
The picture is less clear when the average number of copies sold doesn’t vary much for titles whose metadata contains up to three types of descriptive metadata (between 1,200 and 1,800 copies’ difference). With four types, the average number goes up to almost 2,500 copies.
There’s a clearer correlation between the number of descriptive metadata elements on the average number of library borrowings. A number that starts a fewer than 300 borrows per year (zero to one piece of metadata) is seen steadily rising to more than 750 yearly borrows for titles with four types of descriptive metadata.
The first results of this unique study are to be presented at the Buchmesse program on Tuesday by Breedt and David Walter who is business development director and author of the white paper.