BISG Launches Tuned-up ONIX Standard
Paul Hilts -- 9/18/00
Enhanced version of international bibliographic data exchange provides standardized forms as well as physical descriptions of books

The Book Industry Study Group has released the enhanced version of its international bibliographic data exchange standard for publishers, distributors and booksellers, called ONIX International, version 1.1. ONIX (for ONline Information eXchange) not only provides standardized forms for identifying a book's title, author, publisher and ISBN, but includes physical descriptions such as dimensions and weight, which are used in automated warehousing systems, and it can even accommodate thumbnail cover graphics. In January, AAP had floated a preliminary version of ONIX; the new release adds refined use of XML tags, enabling automated use of the system over the World Wide Web.

Response from across the industry was immediate and overwhelmingly positive, according to BISG's executive director, Sandra Paul. "Many of the leading publishers are ready to send ONIX International data to their customers right now."

Matching retailers' Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) identification numbers with publishers' bibliographic data has been a headache for the entire industry, according to Barnes & Noble CIO J Giamelli. "A unified standard will assist our internal systems, providing information more easily, faster and more accurately," he noted.

Cindy Cunningham, manager of the U.S. Catalog Team at, said, "we hope to be able to get all data for books, music and video in this new standardized format."

An International Standard
Brian Green, managing agent for the secretariat of EDItEUR, the umbrella organization for establishing e-commerce standards for the publishing industry, pointed out that ONIX is an international standard. Besides the support in the U.S. and U.K., he said, "we have substantial interest from Argentina, Germany, Italy and Scandinavia."

The inability to amend information in many industry database systems--either adding missing information or correcting errors--has long been a stumbling block to establishing e-commerce in books. BISG is therefore also creating an "ONIX Certification" service, experts who can ensure that ONIX records are in the correct form and are being used correctly. The complete description of each of the tags and how they should be used is downloadable for free at