'Confusing' blurbing is slowing supply chain, BIC warns

'Confusing' blurbing is slowing supply chain, BIC warns

Supply chain organisation BIC has urged publishers to stop using “hugely confusing” blurb material in title and subtitle metadata fields.

BIC has noticed that publishers and other metadata providers are using the subtitle, and sometimes the title fields, in metadata feeds to carry marketing and promotional text, for example, phrases such as "Sunday Times Best Seller", "Gripping read from…", "The Richard & Judy Book Club thriller 2017",  and "Man Booker prize winner".

Such promotional text is "not wanted" by retailers or libraries and is "hugely confusing" for the book buyer, said the organisation, adding that using such information in the subtitle field could adversely affect accreditation of the publisher or metadata provider in the future.

"It is important for discoverability, good customer experience and an efficient data supply chain that these data fields reflect only the true title and subtitle text that appears on the title page", BIC said in a statement. "The valuable promotional text should be included in separate and dedicated promotional text fields, and all metadata recipients, including wholesalers and retailers, should be using these fields appropriately."

The organisation has slammed the "significant escalation" of this practice over the last 12 months, which it says is "confusing and misleading" for consumers trying to make a buying decision. The practice is also having an adverse effect on supply chain efficiency because removing the unwanted text incurs extra costs and is time consuming for retailers and aggregators.

"In order to promote, sell and find books efficiently, booksellers, data aggregators, libraries and others need clear bibliographic details as well as clearly separate promotional text. Industry-standard ONIX metadata has distinct fields for promotional and marketing information that meet this need", the organisation said.

Waterstones agrees with the guidance, arguing that marketing and promotional information "has no place in this field", and does not lead to extra book sales.

A spokesperson for the retailer said: “We expect the bibliographic subtitle feed to contain just that - the subtitle of the book. Marketing and promotional information has no place in this field, not least because it can lead to confusion over search results for customers, but also because it might appear to them as a Waterstones endorsement, which it is not.  This activity does not help us to sell extra copies of the book, in fact, titles displaying marketing information in the subtitle feed are at risk of being removed from our campaign and round-up pages, and delayed from email sends until they are manually repaired by our content team.

"If this activity continues we will have to decide whether to display the subtitle field at all.  We simply ask that publishers and other metadata providers use the field in the manner in which it is defined.”

The guidance has also been supported by The Booksellers Association, Nielsen Book, CILIP and Blackwell's, amongst others.