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!