On ONIX and Onix

Have you ever wondered how all the information you see on Amazon and Kobo and Waterstones.com and Google and iBooks gets there? No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway. Publishers encode all their books’ metadata (title, subtitle, author, genre, blurb, reviews, page count, price in GBP, price in USD, etc. — there is a lot) into a file which they send to retailers. That file is called an ONIX (ONline Information eXchange) file.

In my previous job, ONIX was my thing. I spent at least four hours a week actively sending out ONIX files, and perhaps 60% of my time overall was spent fixing ONIX problems and thinking about ONIX. In my new job I spend much less time on ONIX, but I still dabble. I’m a recreational practitioner rather than a dedicated expert.

(Form an orderly queue).

You may have noticed that ONIX shares its name with a Pokemon. Given that, like so many people my age (I refuse to use the word “millenial”), much of my childhood was spent absolutely obsessing over Pokemon cards, programmes, movies, toys, and the all-important GameBoy games (Blue 4eva), this link did not pass me by. It struck me as a bizarre coincidence, and brought a wry smile to my face every so often.

Anyway. I am one of the millions of people whose lives have been changed in the last fortnight by Pokemon Go. (It’s distracted me from Brexit, at least). And I was absolutely delighted to catch an Onix at one point — undoubtedly the most appropriate Pokemon for me to own.


This led to me posting this on my personal Twitter account.


And I was absolutely over the moon when my friend Alex answered me!

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It needs a friend to turn the pages.

Meet my new mascot. Thank you, Alex!