Re: [Videolib] ISBN #s

Herownword@aol.com
Wed, 22 Mar 2006 16:41:57 EST

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Thanks to all who have responded (and to future responders as well!). I'm a
big fan of ISBNs and have put them on all the work we have
published/released since 1989 (and retroactively to the ones we produced 1986-1988). I have
every intention of continuing to assign ISBNs to all new releases, but have
run into a roadblock, as I mentioned. Here is what I have learned so far:

1. Bowker is indeed the only agency that can assign ISBNs in the US and
since it is a monopoly it can and does charge big bucks. (As an aside, ISBNs in
Canada appear to be free.)

2. ISBNs have traditionally been 10 digits (as are the ones I currently
use). As of January of 2007, a new 13-digit ISBN system will go into effect. I
haven't called Bowker back yet, but my hunch is that it's because the entire
numbering system is being modified that I can't keep my old prefix.

3. Because each prefix is a technical number that denotes first of all the
country of origin and second of all the particular publisher, it's much more
convenient and less error-prone for a publisher to have the same prefix for
all titles. (To put this in perspective, the current 10-digit system consists
of 7 digits of prefix and only 3 of suffix that changes with each title.)The
issue for smaller publishers is that Bowker sells ISBNs in blocks of numbers
and you can only get a consistent prefix when you purchase that particular
block; you can't go back and get more numbers for that prefix. The smaller,
more affordable blocks are much more expensive per number than the larger
blocks and also involve changing prefixes as time goes by. Larger publishers of
course just purchase an initial block of 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 ISBNs and
then they have the right to use those numbers, all with the same prefix, far
into the foreseeable future. (As another aside, I came across a website that
suggested that in the future book and media reviewers will be able to discern
the size of a publishing/media house by its ISBN; as far as I know, that's
not possible now.)

4. The tooth fairy doesn't put ISBNs under your pillow, Jessica. Somebody
somewhere is in charge of assigning them to your titles. The ones you
distribute that are produced by others would, of course, come with ISBNs already
assigned (and with a variety of prefixes, one for each publisher). But for any
that Kino actually publishes, someone on your staff (or possibly an outside
contractor like a copyright/permissions professional or lawyer) assigns the
ISBN.

So, there you have it. I'll probably bite the bullet and purchase a pricey
block of ISBNs, but then, I've been in business for 20 years. It does seem
to me unfortunate that a system is evolving that greatly disadvantages startup
and micro publishers. The ISBN system is fabulous; it's just too bad that
the US ISBN price system is structured the way it is.

Many thanks again for this listserv.

Jocelyn Riley
HerOwnWords.com
NontraditionalCareers.com


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Thanks to all who have responded (and to future responders as well!).&n= bsp;=20 I'm a big fan of ISBNs and have put them on all the work we have=20 published/released since 1989 (and retroactively to the ones we produced=20 1986-1988).  I have every intention of continuing to assign ISBNs to al= l=20 new releases, but have run into a roadblock, as I mentioned.  Here is w= hat=20 I have learned so far:
 
1.  Bowker is indeed the only agency that can assign ISBNs in the=20= US=20 and since it is a monopoly it can and does charge big bucks.  (As an as= ide,=20 ISBNs in Canada appear to be free.)
 
2.  ISBNs have traditionally been 10 digits (as are the ones I=20 currently use).  As of January of 2007, a new 13-digit ISBN system will= go=20 into effect.  I haven't called Bowker back yet, but my hunch is that it= 's=20 because the entire numbering system is being modified that I can't keep my o= ld=20 prefix.
 
3.  Because each prefix is a technical number that denotes first o= f=20 all the country of origin and second of all the particular publisher, it's m= uch=20 more convenient and less error-prone for a publisher to have the same prefix= for=20 all titles.  (To put this in perspective, the current 10-digit system=20 consists of 7 digits of prefix and only 3 of suffix that changes with each=20 title.)The issue for smaller publishers is that Bowker sells ISBNs in blocks= of=20 numbers and you can only get a consistent prefix when you purchase that=20 particular block; you can't go back and get more numbers for that prefix.&nb= sp;=20 The smaller, more affordable blocks are much more expensive per number than=20= the=20 larger blocks and also involve changing prefixes as time goes by.  = ;=20 Larger publishers of course just purchase an initial block of 100 or 1,000 o= r=20 10,000 ISBNs and then they have the right to use those numbers, all with the= =20 same prefix, far into the foreseeable future.  (As another aside, I cam= e=20 across a website that suggested that in the future book and media reviewers=20= will=20 be able to discern the size of a publishing/media house by its ISBN; as far=20= as I=20 know, that's not possible now.)
 
4.  The tooth fairy doesn't put ISBNs under your pillow,=20 Jessica.  Somebody somewhere is in charge of assigning them to your=20 titles.  The ones you distribute that are produced by others would, of=20 course, come with ISBNs already assigned (and with a variety of prefixes, on= e=20 for each publisher).  But for any that Kino actually publishes, someone= on=20 your staff (or possibly an outside contractor like a copyright/permissions=20 professional or lawyer) assigns the ISBN.
 
So, there you have it.  I'll probably bite the bullet and purchase= a=20 pricey block of ISBNs, but then, I've been in business for 20 years.  I= t=20 does seem to me unfortunate that a system is evolving that greatly disadvant= ages=20 startup and micro publishers.  The ISBN system is fabulous; it's j= ust=20 too bad that the US ISBN price system is structured the way it is.
 
Many thanks again for this listserv.
 
Jocelyn Riley
HerOwnWords.com
NontraditionalCareers.com
 
 
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