Wednesday, December 02, 2009

ISBN Survey

The International ISBN agency is conducting a short survey on the use of ISBN's with respect to ebooks.

The following is from the JISC website (and the survey is not available on the ISBN International web site - not even a link).
In order for libraries to be able to identify and purchase e-books in various formats and from various vendors we need to establish an effective approach to identification of e-books. This is also essential in terms of cataloguing and ensuring that the print record is not replaced by the electronic record. But the question is to what level of granularity do we go to meet demand and what can publishers and aggregators realistically supply? The International ISBN Agency is trying to establish requirements and the simple 4-question survey is designed to assess both the real needs of users and the ability of publishers to satisfy them. Please do take part in the survey as this is an important issue that requires resolution. You can read about the background and the issues associated with ISBNs for e-books in Brian Green’s briefing paper. It is well worth a read.

1 comment:

Inkling said...

I took the survey and ended up frustrated. It seemed more intended to gather data about how ISBNs might be better marketed than as an honest attempt to discover if ISBNs are really appropriate for ebooks.

The answer is "Obviously not!" ISBNs are as poorly suited to ebooks as ISBNs were to magazines and newspapers. The latter is why we have ISSNs for serial publications (International Standard Serial Number).

Like the latter, a very different scheme needs to be adopted for ebooks. They need an ISEN, an International Standard Ebook Number or perhaps even better an ISDDN, an International Standard Digital Document Number. The second would recognize that digitally the only real difference between a 4-page document and a 4,000 page book is the file size. And since there are no physical copies, the numbering scheme could be longer than 13-digits to be more informative and to make sure we don't run out of numbers for a long, long time.

Earlier on this site I described some details about what any digital document tracking scheme needs:

The sooner we abandon the idea that ISBN can be kludged to work with ebooks, the sooner we can get down to developing a scheme that will actually work. Also, these delays make it more likely that digital publishers will decided to simply not bother with any scheme but their own, in-house one. Amazon illustrates that.