Monday, November 7, 2011

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


I'm afraid the blog has been in abeyance too long. The main event - and preoccupation - of the past month or so has been the moving of the BIC office. We are now installed in the CILIP building on the corner of Store Street and Ridgmount Street in the heart of Bloomsbury, and very convenient and central it is proving after twenty years in the wilds of North London.

The next challenge is Frankfurt, always an important diary date for meetings with members and with the international standards community. One of the most important events will be a meeting to progress the planned international version of the BIC standard subject categories. This will be a truly international meeting, with representatives from Spain, Italy, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway and the Arab world, all of whom are interested in being involved with this work; and we hope for an important outcome.

That apart, we shall hope to see many of our members in the book fair.

Monday, September 5, 2011


The end of the holiday season is a good time to take stock; and maybe to cast a fresh eye over the book industry scene. For BIC, it means the opportunity to reassess priorities.

There are signs that the hype around digital may be dying down. That would be a good thing, provided that the industry is ready for a more sober evaluation of where it has left us. We have been swept along on the tide of digital enthusiasm, as everyone has, perhaps running the risk of taking our eye off the ball in other equally important parts of our remit; but we have held to the belief that the big challenge will be to manage the 'mixed economy' which will exist in the book trade will be for the next few years and maybe much longer. In that mixed economy, digital, however fast it grows, will remain just another route to market and another way in which content is distributed. Without the hype, there are some big decisions for the industry to take about future systems needs. This may well be where BIC's attention needs to be focussed in the coming year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


This is the time of year when we all try to get things finished - before taking on new tasks after the holidays. In BIC's case we have been able to conclude two longstanding pieces of work: a best practice guide for recipients of price and availability data; and our guidelines for implementing the new sales report standards.

The recipient's guide (here) is freely adapted from a similar document produced by our friends at the Book Industry Study Group and updated last year. It attempts to define the obligations on data recipients in their relationships with data providers: protecting the integrity of data received, specifying timetables for the processing of incoming information, ensuring that proper data audit trails exist, and so on. As the number of metadata feeds from publishers proliferates - if not to the extent that it has in the US - this initiative is all about trying to make the best possible information available to booksellers and their customers.

Readers of this blog will know how important we believe it is that we simplify and automate the processing of digital sales information from resellers to publishers. Now that we have tried and tested systems in place, our guidelines (here) are chiefly an exhortation to get on and use them. The standards provide the framework, but they do not define what information needs to be exchanged or the timing of the messaging - and nor do our guidelines. What is crucial is that resellers can use the same processes - ideally the same messages - for reporting sales to all their suppliers, and that suppliers can ingest identical messages from all their trading partners into their invoicing, sales, royalty and management information systems.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Price and availability data: it ought to be such a simple matter, just a question of telling the supply chain that a price has changed or a title has gone out of stock. However, it is anything but - as the P & A working party we set up recently has been finding out.

To begin with, there is a common assumption that there is a single BIC code list for non-availability. There isn't. If you are using EDI to transmit availability data, you use the BIC/Tradacoms list 54. If you are an ONIX user you need List 54 if you're still with version 2 or lists 54 and 55 (publishing status and product availability) if you've moved to version 3. If you've implemented the BIC P & A web service standard, there's yet another list.

Next, the EDI codes serve multiple purposes: to indicate availability status in a data feed; but more significantly as a reason for non-supply when acknowledging an EDI order. To make matters worse, code list 54 is an all-purpose list which includes status and acknowledgment responses for all the different supply chain players and has to serve all their needs. Our first task is to sort out which codes should be used by whom, to mean what, and then how they should be interpreted by the recipient.

And that really is the nub of the problem: the whole concept of availability changes depending on who is asking and why. Every link in the supply chain changes the availability perspective.

We have a big task on our hands. And we would welcome input from any of you who would like to be involved.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Although BIC has been promoting the value of accurate early product information for more than a decade, we still only have 25 companies certified by our Product Data Excellence scheme. It's true that among those 25 there are companies which account for a high proportion of the books published in the UK, but it is still a reminder of how many publishers fail to understand the vital role that metadata plays - not all of it in obvious ways - in making sales and enabling discovery.

If that is true of physical books, how much more so for the discovery of digital content. The need for full and appropriate metadata in the right place at the right time is going to make massive demands on both publishers and resellers if the market for e-books and other digital content is going to grow and prosper.

These are the issues which have been under scrutiny by our Metadata Futures Group in its work to date. What are the appropriate strategies which should be adopted by publishers to cope with the growing demands from their trading partners for accurate and unambiguous metadata? Some of the answers are what you might expect: support industry standards, migrate to ONIX 3, identify products with as much granularity as you and your entire supply chain needs, develop system structures and hierarchies which minimise duplication and bloat... You can read the report on the group's activity to date here.

There aren't any easy answers, though. There is cost - and maybe no quantifiable ROI - attached to all these developments, and time is not on our side.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


We held our summer seminar - a new tradition, only started last year - on Tuesday afternoon at RIBA, with ominous thunder rumbling around. But it turned out to be a thoroughly pleasant and instructive afternoon; or so those who have commented have told me. It's a less formal event than most of our seminars, almost entirely confined to the BIC community itself, which provides a chance to catch up on a range of issues with which BIC is currently involved. Not a digital seminar, either - too many of those these days - but digital and the change digital is bringing to our industry inevitably loomed large.

The seminar was kicked off with a thought-provoking keynote by Sheila Bounford, now MD of NBN International and previously executive director of the IPG. She has very helpfully blogged her assessment of the seminar, saving me the trouble of doing so and at the same time making many of the points I tried to raise in my summing up at the end of the afternoon but in a more robust and succinct way than I could possibly do. You can read it here.

The seminar presentations will be posted next Monday here.

Friday, June 10, 2011


Considering the urgency with which the Book Industry Study Group responded in the spring of last year to publishers' need for a standard sales report message in order to perform their legal and financial obligations under the agency model, it is worrying that the resulting standard has taken until today to be published. We must make sure that the momentum has not been lost.

How distributors would deal with invoicing digital products which had already been sold was an issue which first hit BIC's radar back in 2008. It was soon established that a great deal of manual intervention - and therefore cost - was involved in interpreting reports from resellers which arrived in a variety of shapes and sizes and at unpredictable intervals. The number of digital products sold at that time was tiny, but even then it was clear that a significant increase in volumes - on which the drive for digitisation was predicated - would make the situation unmanageable. We looked at an EDItX Digital Sales Report message which had been devised for a particular North American requirement in 2003 which seemed to fit the bill.

Although we continued to promote the need for a standard, the coming of the agency model in the US both provided a real impetus for adoption but also required that we wait for it to be completed. Now, at last, it is; and we believe it is an important step forward for the digital supply chain.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


We have been saddened by the recent unexpected news that Scott Lubeck, Executive Director of the Book Industry Study Group, has resigned after just eighteen months in the position. Scott has been a valuable ally and friend of BIC's; and although the US and UK book trades do not always see eye to eye - certainly operate in very different ways - he has always shown respect for our views and helped to interpret them for BISG members (as we have always tried to so for theirs). We shall miss him and wish him well for the future.

What is certain is that a close relationship between BIC and BISG is a top priority for us. As trading becomes increasingly global in nature and heavily dominated by North American companies, what happens in the US directly impacts on us and the way we work. Where we can collaborate we do; and where we can share expertise, standards and processes we must. It is our hope that Scott's successor will share this vision.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


It was as if e-books didn't exist. All the talk at the Book Industry Conference this week was of collaboration between publishers and booksellers in promoting the extraordinary creativity of our business and the possibility of a glorious future for independent booksellers. In an impressive presentation, Oren Teicher of the American Booksellers Association showed clearly that he believes there is. But there was scarcely a mention of Amazon, let alone Google or Apple, not an app in sight; no hint that our last remaining high street chain bookseller was reaching a pivotal point in its history even as the conference took place.

No doubt it was deliberate that this was a digital no-go zone - and maybe none the worse for that - but it's hard to think that delegates leaving the warm cocoon of the conference hall didn't feel a chill wind blowing when they got outside.


It has taken the industry a long time to wake up to the problems it has caused for itself by not standardising subject categories much earlier. It has certainly woken up now!

Our industry here in the UK has benefited tremendously from work done by BIC in the 90s in persuading the data aggregators of the day (Book Data and Whitaker) to adopt a single national scheme to replace their own. The BIC standard subject categories have become one of BIC's greatest success stories (to the extent that for many people in the trade BIC is a synonym for its classification scheme). A number of European countries have come to view this success with envy; and there have been a several variant schemes based on BIC introduced locally around Europe.

It is now clear that the time has come for further consolidation in Europe. Urged on by the Spanish Publishers Association, which decided last year to adopt the BIC scheme, we held a meeting at the LBF of representatives from Italy, Germany and Portugal as well as Spain which will lead later this year to the first publication of a multilingual version of BIC. Since then we have heard that there will be participation from Sweden too.

All this activity reflects the new globalism of the book trade and to some extent the likely impact of e-books on search, discovery and content acquisition. The more standard the tools for discovery are, the better will be the trading opportunities.

So far so good. But the bigger obstacle for English-language publishers lies in the standardised use of BIC here, in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and of the parallel BISAC scheme in North America. Not only are the two schemes deeply entrenched in their home territories but they are also very different in structure, so that mapping from one to the other is next to impossible without losing the clarity and level of detail which give the schemes their purpose.

BIC has been advising UK publishers to assign BISAC as well as BIC codes to their titles; but this is a cumbersome solution and one which is in the long run unsustainable. There is now some light at the end of the tunnel, however - even if the tunnel may still be quite long! The Book Industry Study Group's Governing Council has last week endorsed a proposal to work with BIC to address the standardisation of subject classifications and explore the future needs of the worldwide industry for search and discovery taxonomies. On this agreement we pin our hopes for a global multilingual subject classification scheme.

There will be much to do...

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The London Book Fair passed in a blur of activity, most of it productive, all of it interesting and useful. No time to relax now, however: we have a slew of BIC events and activities to work on through the next few months.

First, we are putting on a second New Trends seminar at RIBA on Tuesday 28 June. The first one, last year, was an attempt to showcase some of the BIC work which had been going on which might not have been on the radar for some members not directly involved in our committee activity; and very successful it proved to be. This year's is similarly wide-ranging, taking on strategic and practical issues which will be important for our membership now and in the future: presentations on standardising data flows for digital products by Ruth Jones of Ingram, the future of distribution by Sheila Bounford of NBN International, developments in content accessibility by Sarah Hildersley of EDItEUR, the impact of EPUB.3 on e-book publishing by Peter Rogers of Aptara, as well as updates on BIC's current work on identification and price and availability. Registration is now open; and you can sign up here.

Our other big innovation of the year is the start of our training programme. We shall be organising three pilot one-day courses in the early autumn in collaboration with the Publishing Training Centre. If they go well, we will repeat them at regular intervals in the future. We have selected the three subjects which were voted most important in the survey we carried out earlier in the year; and you can find full details and registration forms here.

In between, we are enjoying some important discussions emerging from ad hoc groups: on the deficiencies of price and availability information; on identification of digital products and systems requirements of the future; and the use of SANs in the supply chain.

We now publish a calendar of future of events on the web site, updated on a monthly basis. Apart from meetings which are necessarily limited to specific individuals, most of our committees and working parties are open to all. Just let me know if you want to be involved in any area of work.

Friday, April 8, 2011


Whether or not because the volcanic dust deprived attenders of their annual LBF fix last year this year's fair looks like being the busiest ever for me. Though I'm not a great fan of book fairs or of Earls Court LBF does provide opportunities to catch up with a lot of people very quickly and a focus for getting things finalised which might otherwise drag on unresolved.

Apart from the Supply Chain Seminar on Wednesday morning and the regular book fair meetings organised by EDItEUR, including the ONIX International Steering Committee, there will be meetings with colleagues and friends from the UK and overseas to catch up with developments in the trade and spread the word about BIC and its ever-expanding work programme. We hope to finalise our plans for training courses beginning in the early autumn - more on this to come - and to make headway with the growing international interest in the BIC standard subject categories, among many other things. And we shall be providing supply chain guidance to IPG members in a 90-minute 'speed-dating' session.

So, a busy - and, I hope productive - week in store. We look forward to seeing many members over the three days.

Thursday, March 31, 2011


Entering new territory - as it appears the book industry is doing - inevitably results in some wrong turnings being taken. Even in the short time since we have had to take digital seriously there are things we realise should have been tackled differently. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try to second-guess the future, especially in preparing the ground for what will clearly be a mixed-economy supply chain for some years to come.

One such example is our newest BIC group, rather grandly named the Metadata Futures Group, which has been set up under the chairmanship of Jon Windus of Nielsen to explore the way metadata is going to go on delivering value to the supply chain when the product described is nothing like as simple as just a printed book. Defining products when the products themselves are capable of undergoing continuous change, in their content but also in their technical properties - suitability for devices, delivery platforms, digital rights management, and so on - is a real challenge to existing mechanisms for handling metadata. It begs questions we would no doubt prefer not to ask, but it would be remiss of us not to ask them and see where those questions lead.

If any BIC members would like to be involved in this work, please let me know.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


We awarded another eighteen Supply Chain Excellence Awards last week, making 53 in total and within sight of the 80-odd companies which held the e4books award at the end of last year. Some of the eighteen were those who had found the application form or the timetable for filling it in too challenging when the scheme launched; but there was a gratifying number of independent booksellers too, helped by the simplified form which we have now made available.

We need more applications from publishers. There's so much innovation and enterprising use of technology out there, as we saw at the IPG conference a fortnight ago, it's a shame if they don't want their efforts to be recognised. Independent distributors are also thin on the ground. Supply chain excellence and technical proficiency should be a primary concern for smaller publishers when they look around for a new distributor.

We hope that those BIC members who have won the award already will help to promote the scheme to trading partners and others with whom they are in contact, and encourage them to apply and to support the objectives of a slicker, more efficient supply chain based on innovative technology.

Friday, March 18, 2011


BIC's operational board met on Monday and afterwards its chair, Jonathan Nowell, generously hosted a small reception for the board and other trade luminaries. Quite coincidentally I remembered that it was twenty years almost to the day since BIC had been established; so it became a birthday party too.

I chose that as the theme of a short speech I gave: that BIC had achieved much in its history but that the book world was changing so much and so fast that in many ways we faced the same potential challenges now to standards-driven stability that we did twenty years ago.

Anyway this is what (more or less) I said:

'Since 1991, BIC has achieved a quite extraordinary profile both in the UK and internationally, thanks largely to the vision and perseverance in its early days of my predecessor Brian Green.

'As a result, we have for our core product – the book - a sophisticated supply chain, almost all of it underpinned by a swathe of BIC standards for EDI, barcoding, identifiers, product information, returns processing and so on, and which simply wouldn't function without them.

'Now, however, although BIC will continue to maintain those standards as long as there is a need to do so, we are confronted by an industry in a dramatic transition to new models, which currently operate largely without standards - certainly book trade ones.

'There may never be local or specific book trade standards again. But does that mean there is no role for BIC? Absolutely not: industry collaboration and standards are essential in the long run if the industry is going to prosper – even survive - in the new world. It is vital that the industry works to re-establish its grounding in standards – just as happened in the 90s – to cope with the bewildering complexity of the supply chains of the future.

'We all know that global standards are the inevitable necessity in the digital arena. But local needs and local implementations create the momentum for standards, and BIC’s status as a community of interested individuals and organisations gives us a huge advantage in the quest for greater supply chain stability.

'I want to mention just a few things that BIC is doing or plans to do.

'I am tremendously proud of the recent achievements of the BIC/CILIP RFID in Libraries Group, which has had an influence far beyond its original remit in fostering standardisation in the area of library RFID; and now is rewriting the way RFID systems and library management systems interoperate. This is hugely important work for that sector and has given the group international clout and respect. We are very grateful to its chair, Martin Palmer, and the consultants who work alongside the group for their part in this success story.

'We want to see standardised sales reporting of digital content adopted universally in the UK trade. At present this crucial bit of the digital jigsaw is a mess. The tools to clean it up exist already and this is exactly the kind of supply chain nightmare which we believe we can resolve by promoting those standards and the best practice that goes along with them.

'There is a huge task to be done on metadata. The cosy world of metadata, based on simple processes and identifiers, is irretrievably gone. We need to move fast to prevent complete anarchy moving in to take its place.

'We want to start the process of establishing a global multilingual subject classification scheme, appropriate to digital search and discovery as well as more traditional purposes. The parallel existence of two influential schemes in North America and in Europe is no longer a sustainable model; and we and our colleagues in the US must address it fast.

'We need to engage with the rights community in the communication of rights, contracts, licences and royalties. As rights are the pillars which support the digital publishing edifice, efficient communication of them is going to be as important as the transmission of metadata was ten years ago.

'To conclude, then, we absolutely need to promote standards in the future as we did in the past, and we need the support of the whole industry to do so. Our standards are open and free, but ‘free’ doesn’t mean they come without cost. We therefore beg those organisations which are not in membership but who use our standards to show in a tangible way their commitment to the overwhelming importance of stabilising the supply chain once again as we move through these disruptive times.

'So many thanks to Jonathan Nowell for hosting this reception and to Nielsen for sponsoring it; and to our sponsoring associations and institutions (PA, BA, British Library and CILIP); our committee chairs, consultants and members. The toast is to BIC.'

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


It's seven years since I was invited by Sheila Bounford to speak at the IPG conference in Torquay. It was the beginning of the e4books campaign and the message was that independent publishers needed to think about how proficiency in the supply chain gave them competitive advantage. Thankfully - and greatly to their benefit - many publishers have taken that advice: outsourced distribution, understood the fundamental impact of product metadata on sales performance, installed publishing management systems which reduced error and automated processes which should never be wasting the time of the publishing entrepreneurs who are the bedrock of the IPG.

We're in a different game now, though. IPG members have been as enterprising as ever in embracing the digital future, publishing digitally, developing apps and tweeting and facebooking as if it was going out of fashion. It was depressing from a BIC perspective, though, that this year's conference in Chipping Norton avoided almost any mention of the digital supply chain or the value of product metadata - more important than ever in the digital maelstrom. These subjects may not have the same appeal as social networking but independent publishers ignore them at their peril. Freedom to innovate and publish innovatively - not to mention survival - will for better or worse increasingly depend on the smooth running of these supply chain mechanics.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


One of the best things about our supply chain accreditation scheme is that you don't have to be technically savvy or knowledgeable about industry standards to be a winner. For our team of judges it is just a matter of assessing whether an organisation, wherever it may be in the supply chain, is optimising the use of technology to achieve a limited number of business goals: automating business processes (for recipient as well as sender) to increase efficiency; using automation to improve customer service; and paying due regard to the environment by reducing the amount of waste manual processes tend to generate. Any company which can do these things to the best of its ability is worthy of a supply chain accreditation.

What may not be so easy - especially for busy managers of small publishing or bookselling operations - is to express on a fairly complex application form what drives a supply chain strategy which ticks all these boxes. That's why we have this week launched a simple six or seven point questionnaire, free (I hope) of jargon and technical stuff, suitable for independent booksellers and publishers who have wisely decided to outsource their distribution to professionals. The initial response has been heartening, showing that at least to some extent we have achieved our objective.

Of course we wouldn't expect such organisations to be part of the BIC community, even though they unknowingly use BIC standards every day of their lives: but we do believe that it is our job to empower every part of the supply chain and work with partner organisations like the PA, BA and IPG, and with our members in the systems and services providers' sector - who routinely deliver BIC standards through their products and services - to remind the industry that efficiency in the supply chain is the route to prosperity.

Friday, February 18, 2011


ISO 28560, the long-awaited standard for RFID tags in libraries, has this week passed the last remaining obstacle to final publication by securing 100% positive votes in the ISO ballot. It has been a long process.

Celebration is due, but it may be a little muted. First of all, it isn't really an international standard since it comes in three parts, two of which are alternative ways of encoding a standard data set: one based on the fixed-format Danish Standard; the other a more flexible format which is likely to be adopted in the English-speaking world and elsewhere - and certainly in the UK. Secondly, despite having been technically stable for more than a year and in no serious doubt of not being voted through, editorial delays at ISO have encouraged and enabled some libraries to invest in supposedly compliant RFID implementations which it transpires were not. Thirdly, publication of the standard - when it comes - is only the beginning of the long road to interoperability of library RFID systems, which will only happen when the hardware and software of the various manufacturers of RFID systems becomes compliant with the standard: that process can only properly begin now.

Nevertheless, we are delighted by the news, especially because the BIC/CILIP RFID in Libraries Group has been at the centre of UK input to the standard. This group includes all the major RFID companies - as well as librarians and other systems and service suppliers - and has been the necessary and only focus for establishing a UK position on library RFID. We have been able to commit to ISO 28560-2 as being the UK's preferred format for tag structure and content; we have published a UK profile which identifies the elements recommended for use in UK implementations; and we have published several important pieces of advice and guidance on implementation and compliance. Our next steps are to publish guidance notes on implementing the UK profile - there is one piece of that jigsaw which needs to be fitted in before we can do that - and a more detailed best practice guide for adopters of the standard. Thanks are due to Martin Palmer (chair of the BIC/CILIP group), Alan Hopkinson, Paul Chartier, Mick Fortune and Simon Edwards for their contribution to all this work.

As a postscript, I should say that there has been much debate about whether implementers of RFID technology can be sure that tags they apply do comply with the standard. It is heartening to know that the major RFID suppliers - members of the RFID Alliance - are getting together to peer-test each other's tags. In what has been a notoriously competitive industry in the past, this signal of collaboration is a most encouraging marker for the future.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


The last meeting of our Digital Supply Chain Group was important for a number of reasons: because it was the best attended so far; because the quality of debate on key digital issues was so high; and because it highlighted the emerging reality that digital is a serious business for us all and processes need to be developed which enable it to be integrated so far as possible with existing systems.

Wherever you look at the subjects under discussion - digital sales reporting, e-book identification, metadata creation and dissemination and so on - you can see that too much effort and cost has been expended in creating new systems and processes to cope with short-term digital issues which have cropped up and needed a quick fix.

We must hope that the industry doesn't become too dependent on quick fixes. Often companies think that it's cheaper to continue with inefficient and costly practices rather than get to the root of the problem and invest in long-term solutions which deliver long-term benefits. We have seen this so often in all areas of the publishing infrastructure: companies which hobbled along with multiple non-integrated systems for product information; a reluctance to embrace automated processes such as the industry returns initiative; failure to get to grips with content asset management systems and rights and royalties systems.

Digital is too important to handle using inadequate tools and processes. That's why the work of the digital supply chain group is so crucial. All BIC members are welcome to take part: the more the merrier. Just contact us for more information.

Friday, February 4, 2011


It's becoming increasingly difficult to plan this annual seminar - to achieve a balance between the digital and physical supply chains, to forecast what will be hot and what will not in three month's time, to appeal to the growing international audience we have for these events.

So I'm particularly pleased with the programme we have this year, which I think has something for everyone - trade, libraries, digital, physical, publishers, retailers - but a common theme: leveraging technology to improve the quality and efficiency of all the things we do in the book industry.

Two of the speakers were on the programme last year, but failed to defy the volcano then: Scott Lubeck, my opposite number at the Book Industry Study Group, who will give us a US perspective on how the industry is changing there (and therefore here soon, no doubt); and Michael Tamblyn, the most entertaining and articulate champion of e-reading.

You can download the registration form right now. And I hope you will!

Thursday, January 27, 2011


With the current obsession with digital things it's easy to forget that the supply chain for books is still delivering the vast majority of sales revenues, much of it dependent on BIC standards or standards promoted by BIC. So it's been timely to be reminded that it is also dependent on the knowledge and experience of individual IT specialists in their own companies. The suggestion that BIC should play a part in training newcomers to the industry in the dark arts of EDI, IRI and the rest has obviously struck a chord with many organisations which have realised how vulnerable they may be to that dependence.

The reaction to our survey has been amazing - and amazingly positive, apart from some concerns about cuts in training budgets - with EDI and ONIX as the current front runners among the subjects to be covered. We are keeping the survey open for another week or so and you can access it here. You don't have to be a BIC member to take part: we want the views of the whole industry and any input wil be helpful in moving this initiative forward.

Friday, January 21, 2011


It's been a busy week for BIC, with a meeting of our Digital Rights Group, a presentation to the PA's new chief executive, Richard Mollet, who is also the new Chair of BIC's main board, a technical implementation group meeting, and the first awards of our brand new accreditation scheme for supply chain excellence. Every time I've got back to my desk, though, the first thing has been to check whether the BIC web site was back and to field emails from those who had discovered it wasn't!

In a way it's a reassuring indication of the many diverse things BIC means to so many people that the temporary disappearance of the site causes such widespread annoyance and frustration. It's also a reminder of how much we have all come to expect information to be available immediately. Not all users of the site are our busy members: Nielsen's small publisher PubWeb users depend on it for the BIC subject category assignment tool which it uses and which has contributed so much to simplifying that chore.

So apologies all round to those who have been inconvenienced. The site has been problematic for a few months and now that it has been reinstalled on a new server I hope we shall all see a great improvement.

The results of the Supply Chain Excellence awards have been very gratifying, though there are some obvious omissions from the list of accredited companies which we hope will be filled very soon. The quality of the submissions was outstanding, especially given the quite demanding application form and the awkward time of year, with a good spread of companies large and small and in all sectors making the very best use of technology to reduce their costs, improve customer service and give themselves some much-needed competitive advantage.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Any of you who are looking for the e4books web site, containing mainly e-commerce resource documents accumulated during the four years leading up to e-Day, will find that the site has been taken down and the links removed. The e4books campaign is officially dead.

It was a great campaign and we mourn its passing. During the course of the four years we saw dramatic changes to the way the book trade organises itself (not all of them directly in response to e4books, though many were) and we have seen the emergence of a fitter, faster supply chain as a result.

The issues addressed by the campaign have not of course completely disappeared and BIC will continue to address them as we have done in the past. We have therefore taken much of the material created for its dedicated web site across to the main BIC site, where it can be found under 'Projects and resources' in the main menu.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Accreditation has been one of BIC's most successful undertakings. From the original BIC tick for product information, introduced way back in June 1999, through e4books and e4libraries, these schemes have caught the attention of the industry as a way of benchmarking supply chain activity which, though vitally important, never otherwise gets into the spotlight.

This month we are launching the BIC Supply Chain Excellence Awards as a successor to the e4books accreditation scheme; and hope all members (and others) will want to apply. The best thing about this and its predecessor scheme is that it is genuinely open to organisations of all kinds, large or small, which are making the best use of available technology to run their businesses more efficiently. This aspect has been emphasised more than ever in the new scheme where the application form invites input on the much wider range of efficient activity the internet and other technologies have made possible: digital publishing, print on demand, social networking and internet marketing.

During January, we shall also be reviewing those organisations which gained
e4libraries accreditation in 2010 - and making new awards for 2011; and holding our regular quarterly meeting to make awards in the BIC Product Data Excellence scheme, the present incarnation of that original 1999 BIC tick.

All these schemes enable organisations to be recognised for the ingenious and innovative answers they have come up with to resolve complex supply chain questions, to boast a little about how much better they do things than their competitors, and to set industry benchmarks for supply chain efficiency. We don't think these things get the attention they deserve. In the tough trading environment we are all facing, the cost savings technology can provide are all-important.