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From the Tech Desk
New Service Helps Publishers Automatically Push Catalog Data to Websites
Let’s be honest with each other here: metadata sucks. Is there anything more boring (and more simultaneously important) in the world of book publishing than metadata? Book metadata helps online stores catalog your titles and makes it possible for customers to find your books. It’s also complex, dull, and takes way too much time to create, update, and disseminate across multiple platforms. If your publishing company is lucky, you can hoist this task off on some unsuspecting intern. If not, I’m sorry.
But what if you didn’t have to rely on manual metadata management to make sure that your books are cataloged correctly? What if you could automate the entire process, for every single book in your company’s catalog?
With a new service called BookEngine, you can. The tool, which is pitched as an “ultra-flexible title manipulation and distribution engine” on the official website, can take all the metadata from a publisher’s database of titles and push it out to various websites and online services. If you need a quick way to get updated metadata out to your company website, Amazon.com, or other e-commerce storefronts, BookEngine is it.
BookEngine is a venture developed by Mint Digital, a digital product development company based in London. Mint, in addition to launching its own startups, helps companies “improve underperforming products and build new ones” and prides itself on “creating interesting online experiences.” BookEngine was born out of the company’s collaborations with book publishers, where Mint team members observed how publishing teams struggled with metadata management.
The narrative is a classic example of an innovator identifying a common set of industry pain points and then creating a solution to solve them. In the late February blog post that introduced BookEngine to the world, Andy Bell, Mint Digital’s Director of New Ventures, explained some of the pain points that his team had noticed during five years of working with book publishers. The average publishing company has a main site, imprint sites, author sites, book sites, and topic sites, Bell explained, as well as presences on social media sites and e-commerce sites. Usually, publishers will be able to automate the flow of metadata from their title databases to their main websites. However, there has never been an easy way to implement the same level of automation for getting metadata to auxiliary sites, content management systems, social media sites, or e-commerce platforms. As a result, publishing teams have to do a lot of manual data entry to get their metadata everywhere that it needs to go.
Needless to say, this necessity for manual data entry creates a slew of problems. As Bell wrote in his February blog post, publishers have a lot of books and “only a finite amount of time,” which means that certain sites either end up without metadata or the entire data entry process gets rushed. A rushed data entry process can introduce errors into the metadata on different sites, which kills uniformity for how a title is cataloged around the web, and which can make certain books more difficult to find on certain sites or services. Alternatively, publishers might feel inclined to cut down on their author, book, topic, or imprint sites just to avoid extra work with metadata. While having fewer sites around the web would definitely mean less metadata management, it would also mean less branding and buzz. In this day and age, indie publishers really can’t afford to limit their online presences. Giving readers as many places to discover your authors and titles as possible is a key way to drive discovery and push revenue.
By using an ONIX feed, BookEngine can pull metadata from whatever title management software your company uses. Next, you can use BookEngine to edit the data in one convenient place, right before it goes out to different spots around the internet. For instance, you can tweak prices, set up bulk deals, add book covers, change category information, edit product descriptions, and more. Once you’re done updating, you can immediately push your metadata to every site where details about your books are hosted. It doesn’t matter if you need to update the metadata on your main site, on an imprint or author site, on Amazon.com, or on Shopify. BookEngine sends a consistent set of metadata to all these locations and more.
Not only does the automated convenience make it easier to upload metadata to various spots around the internet, but it also gives publishers freedom in updating their metadata. If your book has been on virtual shelves for a few weeks and isn’t seeing the kind of sales figures you wanted, you might decide that it’s classified in the wrong category or that the product description doesn’t have enough oomph. Previously, updating those things across various platforms and sites was a huge hassle and an hours-long commitment. Now, it just takes a few minutes of fiddling around in BookEngine.
Are you interested in learning more about BookEngine? Click here to visit the official website.
Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at firstname.lastname@example.org.