Tuesday, December 21, 2010


2010, though maybe not the watershed year some were anticipating, has certainly been a year when future patterns for our industry have begun to emerge from the fog. There is no longer any doubt that we are confronting change on a level not seen for many decades. This, combined with recessionary times and financial instability, makes 2011 look to be an exceptionally challenging year.

BIC is very grateful to its members for their support in these past months and we wish them and all our readers a very happy Christmas and an even happier new year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Our second joint seminar with NAG on the e4libraries subject headings scheme was held at CILIP yesterday and was a well-attended and stimulating event. Maggie Sumner, the retired librarian - and ex-chair of NAG - who devised the scheme for us a couple of years ago, made an impassioned plea for using the scheme as the basis for online search of library catalogues, and Ian Manson of Infor showed some impressive examples from Dutch and French libraries of how that could work in practice. Carl McInerney of Peters Bookselling Services, whilst making the point that library suppliers had benefited in the past from the variations in library servicing requirements, persuasively argued that now was the time for a 'step change' towards greater standardisation.

Clearly the library sector is entering a period of extreme stress where all options for cost-saving will have to be considered. BIC has long promoted technical excellence and standardisation as being key to a more efficient service; and attempting to establish the e4libraries scheme as a national standard is one part of that process.

Our next step is to produce a revised and updated version of the scheme in the spring - bringing it into line with the new version 2.1 of the main BIC scheme which we have just published - and, at the same time, set up proper governance procedures and a steering committee to provide a formal structure for change requests and implementation support.

Friday, December 10, 2010


One of the biggest challenges we have in BIC is persuading publishers of the need to automate and rationalise the way in which they process digital business in their systems. After all, if digital is going to provide incremental income - or worse, if it's going to make up for lost physical revenues - the systems for dealing with invoicing, sales analysis and royalties have got to be as efficient as they have generally become for printed books. There's nothing to be gained from setting up parallel processes which cope with a short-term problem but add to costs.

It's more than two years since BIC published a business case for standardising sales reporting; but the arguments are still as valid as ever. For a long time not much happened - and it was clear that publishers were manually processing sales reports from various vendors and intermediaries in a bewildering range of formats - and with equally bewildering variations in timings and reliability.

However, the profile of this issue has been dramatically raised in the US earlier this year with the coming of the 'agency model', making those publishers which had adopted it suddenly and brutally aware of the new obligations on them to account for the digital sales made by their 'agents'. As a direct result, our colleagues at EDItEUR have been working with the Book Industry Study Group to update the EDItX Sales Report message - which we have been recommmending as the industry's standard digital sales reporting mechanism - to take into account US needs. When the new version is released in the early part of the new year, we shall be renewing our efforts to raise awareness of this issue and encourage the industry to coalesce around a single standard for reporting digital sales.

We believe it's one of the most important issues there is for the digital supply chain.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


BIC's publication this week of guidance on compliance with the new ISO 28560 standard for tag structure and content in library RFID is timely. At long last news has come through that the Final Draft International Standard is about to go out to ballot on a two-month timetable and should be published by the middle of 2011.

It's been an uncomfortable few months for the library RFID community. The standard has been disgracefully delayed by purely editorial matters - it's been technically stable for a year or so - and though some libraries have been asking for full compliance with it in their tender documents it hasn't been easy for suppliers to guarantee it.

There are some hopeful signs now. The compliance document spells out exactly what libraries need and suppliers should provide. The RFID Alliance, a grouping of the leading RFID companies, is examining the options for testing compliance. The issues still outstanding from the UK data model - the UK profile of the standard - which BIC published last year are near to being resolved. When that is finalised, we shall be publishing full guidance notes on the use of the data model. And in the new year we shall be publishing - in collaboration with the National Acquisitions Group - an explanatory template for RFID tender documentation to help libraries ask the right questions and get the solutions they want and need.

At the end of this road is a standard for interoperability in library RFID and best practice policies and guidelines which will help the library RFID community to comply with it. That should spell the beginning of the end to the proprietary solutions which have bedevilled the industry since libraries first embraced RFID technology. Not only will libraries have much more freedom of choice in the tags, software and hardware they buy but also open up new opportunities for using RFID to enhance library operations.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Despite the snow, which swirled around the top floor of the RIBA building in Portland Place all afternoon, and the competing FutureBook Conference and the attractions of Online at Olympia, we attracted a good and appreciative audience for our latest digital seminar yesterday: Confronting the realities of digital change.

Speaker after speaker emphasised the point that the digital business has now grown up and is now something that has to be dealt with on a practical basis. Among the excellent presentations, George Walkley's keynote produced some spectacular statistics about the exponential growth of online content while, more soberly, Eddie Powell of lawyers Fladgate reminded delegates of the potential legal minefields in the agency model and territorial rights management. It was illuminating stuff.

For those unable to attend the presentations are to be found here.