We Love Data

The past seven days have been pretty data intensive at Hot Key Books. We set up our first titles on Biblio Lite, which is the core database of all the information about all of our books.

Biblio is our library catalogue. Our store inventory. It’s our scheduling tool, as well, and how we generate the main documents that we use to sell our books.

Here comes a hot topic word: meta data. Biblio is the hub for all of our meta data: who wrote the book, what it’s called, when it’s publishing, how much it costs. And also… who the agent is, who the editors on it are, where the book is located, what rights we’ve bought for it, what age groups it’s aimed at. (Are you sleeping yet?)

By the end of the year, it will also hold all our royalty information, sales information, where rights in the books have been sold and basically anything and everything to do with the book.

It’s what feeds Amazon and Waterstones and even our own website (being built right now!) with all of that information, plus it houses reviews, book summaries, author biographies. Everything, everything, everything. It’s an enormously powerful database tool that helps us keep track of our business — and so it has to be precise and accurate, all the time.

Now, I must confess, that when I say “we set up” really I mean our tireless editorial assistants, Naomi and Becca set it up (with help from Cait in marketing, too). While we don’t have a huge number of books, those two spent hours painstakingly inputting every detail of all the books we’ve bought in the past six months.

And we’re doing this so that people can find our books. Someone will search for “books about the Spanish Civil War” and the gorgeous A WORLD BETWEEN US will pop up in their browsers.

People will say, “I want a book under £10 published in the year 2012 for a nine year old with a minitaure boy who faces off with an angry squirrell”, and up will pop SHRUNK! by F R Hitchcock in whatever place they are looking, because Biblio will have pushed out that information.

Any tiny piece of information that we can put out into the world, we’ll do it. That’s basically what everyone is talking about when they talk about “metadata”.

We’re even making up our own categories, as you’ve seen yesterday with Kate’s Hot Key Ring. Those ingredients are going out as part of our books’ descriptions, as part of our descriptive data feeds.

Biblio will also help us report on our publishing in the future. All the categories we are assigning will be collatable into analysis of any number of things — production costs, number of reviews, even things like artist’s medium or number of Polish print runs.

So, while data might be a little fiddly, rigid and intensive, it is a hugely powerful tool when done right. And we plan on doing it right, from day one.

(Wake up! The data blogging is over!)