New to EDI?

EDI is Electronic Data Interchange. EDI is the globally accepted and implemented method for exchanging business information electronically in machine-readable formats. ICEDIS provides guidelines that cover different types of EDI, and different transactions within those types. For example, the current subscription renewal order specification is in an ASCII fixed length field format. The dispatch data and price/sales catalog transactions are implemented mostly in the X12 format. Newer transactions in development and early implementation are in the EDIFACT format.

The ASCII fixed length format requires little explanation. The guideline document is available from ICEDIS for free, and any publisher or distributor can choose to implement it at any time. Most major subscription agents, including all agents belonging to ICEDIS, support this format, and will supply the order data on disk, tape, or via Internet FTP.

In the early 1990’s, ICEDIS chose the standards developed by the American National Standards Institute, Accredited Standards Committee – ANSI ASC X12 – for mapping business transactions. Since then there have been successful implementations of the X12 856 dispatch data transaction, X12 869 order status inquiry (for serial claims), and X12 870 order status report (for claims responses), as well as other X12 transactions. Currently the X12 856 is in heavy use for the transmission of shipment dates from publishers to subscription agents. ICEDIS worked closely with the US-based Serials Industry Systems Advisory Committee (SISAC) to promote and distribute X12 guidelines. These X12 transactions are published and available from the SISAC office.

More recently, ICEDIS adopted the United Nations EDIFACT standards, and has cooperated with other industry standards groups to re-map existing X12 transactions and develop new messages in EDIFACT. Guidelines for the use of EDIFACT messages which have been approved by ICEDIS are available from EDItEUR – a book and serial industry standards development organization based in the UK.

X12 and EDIFACT are best thought of as neutral languages for describing business data in a structured way. These languages follow a specific syntax, or set of rules, and allow for mandatory, optional, and conditional data elements. Off-the-shelf “translation” software ( Mercator, DEC/EDI, EDI/EDGE, EDI*Sys, EDI*STAR )for generating and receiving these file formats is widely available, though each user must define the internal files that will be passed to and from their core business applications, and develop programs to load and extract the internal files. Translation software usually comes with a telecommunications component, so that files may be transferred to commercial value-added network (VAN) mailboxes, or directly to trading partners over the Internet.

Most data elements in ICEDIS-compliant EDI files are conventional pieces of data that are familiar from paper documents: ISSN, title, price, address. However, the serial item and contribution identifier (SICI) is one data element unique to electronic trading. The SICI is a standard character string to identify individual journal issues and articles. It is defined in American National Standards Z39.56-1991 and Z39.56-1996, which are available from NISO Press. Extensive information about the SICI is also available on the Web at Berkeley Sunsite. The SICI string consists of an ISSN, followed by chronology (date) information, then enumeration (volume/issue), then optional article information, and control characters. The SICI string is used by publishers to identify shipped journal issues, and by libraries and agents to identify issues being claimed. As trade in electronic journals, articles, and finer granularities of electronic information has increased, the importance of the SICI has grown.

Developing the capacity to generate or receive ICEDIS compliant EDI files using the SICI may seem a daunting task to the small or medium-sized publisher. One way to overcome this obstacle is to team up with an industry consultant familiar with EDI, or with a service provider that can handle EDI formatting and distribution.Serials Subscription Agents that belong to ICEDIS are a good source of information, documentation, and sample data. But the best way to become familiar with the electronic trading practices of the serials industry is to join ICEDIS, either as a full or corresponding member. Regular Meetings cover both the business and technical aspects of the trade. Most EDI-capable organizations in the industry are represented.