Sunday, June 29, 2008

ISBN's On All Formats: Some Comments

Comments have been added to the original post from last week. Given the traffic reports several thousand visitors are transfixed by ISBN issues. Here are a few opinions from around the web:

Martyn Daniels at Booksellers Association (Brave New World):

Forget the posturing and politics this is about product identification and is a basic foundation to all inter-company ecommerce and communication. It is as much about upstream as it is downstream and is fundamental to trade. An old friend Tom McGuffog, Director of Planning and Logistics Nestle and ex chairman of the UK Article Numbering Association (the UK EAN standards governing body now know as GS1 UK), once said ‘ uncertainty is the mother of bad trading, only by removing uncertainty can we trade efficiency’. So what if there are; 10, 20, 30, different ISBNs against a work? Each will be a unique rendition, may have different rights associated with them; different commercial models, even have different features and apply to different channels. Surely identification and consistency is a must.

Today many believe that we also desperately need a work identifier and the best practices to adopt it and deploy it. Some believe that it exists today in the form of the ISTC but that it has stalled, lacks a champion and roadmap and now needs to be adapted, adopted, marketed and deployed. Is it an identification silver bullet? No, firstly it is an attribute associated with and ISBN (a secondary reference), but it can go a long way to enabling the consistent grouping of ISBNs under a work, which will help everyone manage more ISBNs and will also help consumers select and choose the right rendition, which after all is what its all about.

Adam Hodgkin at Exact Editions:

I have a suggestion: where titles go into a format where there are in effect many individual instances of the work then that format should have a separate ISBN attached to it. The ISBN system was introduced so that books would have a standard method of stock control. ISBNs are SKU's. So digital platforms where copies of books are handed/downloaded to readers/purchasers the SKU specific to that channel serves a purpose. For digital platforms which are based on an 'access' system, which would include Google Book Search, and Amazon Search Inside, there is no need for a separate ISBN, because there are no 'units' that need to be tracked. Exact Editions is another such access system and there is no need therefore for publishers to assign separate ISBNs to their titles in the Exact Editions platform. The identifiers that matter for 'access' systems are the urls which comprise the book's web presence.

The post was also noted on where in the comments Jon Noring had this to say:
The fundamental problem is that ISBN is not designed, nor intended, to be used for different renditions of a book, and each different format of an e-book is a different rendition. As a small e-book publisher myself, I am very sympathetic with the ISBN cost issue, though, and the entity to blame on this is Bowker. If Bowker wants ISBNs to be used per the standard, then it needs to set up a better pricing structure for small lots of ISBN numbers. I’ve not heard any justification for the current pricing structure.
(I think that point is partially noted in the statement from Bowker).

There is more feedback including a comment from the US ISBN agency on the original post here.

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