Bibliographic records and book sales

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This post is courtesy of our colleagues at Nielsen Book Australia, whose latest study found that books with complete bibliographic records sell on average more than twice the numbers of books with incomplete records.


In 2012 and 2016, Nielsen Book UK conducted research into the relationship between physical book sales in the UK and bibliographic metadata. The results were published in two White Papers: The Link Between Metadata and Sales (2012) and The Importance of Metadata for Discoverability and Sales (2016). Both White Papers concluded that there was strong evidence between the completeness of book metadata and book sales, illustrating that rich metadata assists the discoverability of books.

Now, in 2020, Nielsen Book UK has sought to understand whether this statement still rings true in their new report The Importance of Metadata for Discoverability and Sales (2020).

Book Industry Communication (BIC) is the UK book industry’s supply chain organisation committed to improving the efficiency of the trade and library supply chains. BIC’s Product Data Excellence Awards (PDEA) accreditation scheme is designed to encourage publishers to commit to providing accurate and timely product data to the book supply chain.

To conduct the study of the relationship between metadata and sales, Nielsen Book UK analysed the UK Total Consumer Market Top 100,000 Bestseller Chart for the 52-week period ending 28 December 2019 against the following elements from the PDEA BIC Basic Scheme:

  • Product Identifier (ISBN 13)
  • Title Information
  • Product Format
  • Product Properties (size and pagination)
  • Audience
  • Subject
  • Publisher and Imprint
  • Publication Date
  • Publisher Status
  • Cover Image
  • Sales Rights (related to the UK market)
  • Supplier
  • Supplier Availability
  • Pricing including VAT

Nielsen Book UK’s analysis reveals a comparable result to the studies conducted in 2012 and 2016: that average sales of books with complete bibliographic records sell on average more than twice the numbers of books with incomplete records. The difference in the average sale in 2019 between physical books with a complete BIC Basic record and an incomplete record was exactly 1,000 copies.

In terms of cover images, 99% of the UK top 100,000 bestsellers of 2019 had a jacket image, with the average sales of books with cover images almost double the sales of those without.

One of the biggest influencers on a book’s average sale in 2019 from a bibliographic perspective was BIC Code; simply, whether the book had a subject classification record. As we have seen, online browsing is a significant influence on book discoverability, so ensuring a book has an accurate genre classification record is essential.*

As we have seen in previous White Papers, our latest report illustrates that books with accurate, complete and descriptive metadata sell more copies on average than books with less complete metadata.


Nielsen Book collects metadata from over 60,000 publishers worldwide and we currently hold over 42 million titles on our database. We disseminate this title information to over 3,500 booksellers, internet retailers and library customers in over 100 countries, making your titles discoverable to thousands of potential buyers.

For smaller lists, you can use our free service Title Editor to supply your data. For larger lists, please arrange to send an automated ONIX feed for your titles. You can contact infobookdataaus@nielsen.com if you have any questions about this process.

Here at Nielsen Book Australia we can provide you with a Publisher Health Check report. This will provide an overview of the quality of bibliographic data Nielsen Book holds for your titles. We will provide statistics around your data completeness and make recommendations on how you can improve your title listings, ensuring all your metadata elements are complete and up to date.

Please get in touch if you would like a quote or have further questions at infobookdataaus@nielsen.com.

* We saw a high compliance here, with 99% of records having at least one BIC Code record, while the average sale of a book with at least one BIC Code was more than three times the sales of books without. Just one book without a classification record sold more than 10,000 copies in the UK in 2019.


About Nielsen Book

Nielsen Book is a leading provider of search, discovery, commerce, consumer research and retail sales analysis services globally. BookScan is the world’s largest continuous sales analysis service and operates in 10 countries and 4 continents. Retail sales information is collected at the point of sale from thousands of outlets in the UK, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, Italy, Spain, New Zealand, India, Mexico, Brazil. Publishers, booksellers and libraries can use the information to assist strategic, acquisition and purchasing decisions. The company is wholly owned by Nielsen. For more information, please visit nielsenbook.com.au.

About Nielsen

Nielsen Holdings plc (NYSE: NLSN) is a global measurement and data analytics company that provides the most complete and trusted view available of consumers and markets worldwide. Nielsen is divided into two business units. Nielsen Global Media provides media and advertising industries with unbiased and reliable metrics that create a shared understanding of the industry required for markets to function. Nielsen Global Connect provides consumer packaged goods manufacturers and retailers with accurate, actionable information and insights and a complete picture of the complex and changing marketplace that companies need to innovate and grow. Our approach marries proprietary Nielsen data with other data sources to help clients around the world understand what’s happening now, what’s happening next, and how to best act on this knowledge. An S&P 500 company, Nielsen has operations in over 100 countries, covering more than 90% of the world’s population. For more information, visit nielsen.com.

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