Re: [Videolib] ISBN #s

Marlene Graham (
Thu, 23 Mar 2006 09:44:46 -0500


FYI, I noted that a Kino title listed in the New York Public Library
database does not have an ISBN number. What it has is a Dynix number that
was assigned by the library.

At Cinema Guild and Third World Newsreel where I was the distribution
director they purchase and assign ISBN numbers.


Marlene Graham (aka Afua Kafi-Akua)
Media Resources Manager
York College
The City University of New York
Center for Academic Computing and Education Technology
Academic Core Building, 4G02A
94-20 Guy R. Brewer Blvd.
Jamaica, NY 11451
Phone: 718-262-2753
Fax: 718-262-2114


> Sorry I realize I am so out of the loop on this I was confusing them
> with OCLC numbers or records. We definately don't pay for ISBN
> numbers in fact
> our video dept has never heard of them. I suppose that means our
> titles do not
> have them but I really don't know. It has honestly never come up at all.
> I know that various wholesalers buy our stuff and resell it pre-catalogued
> but am totally clueless as to if that means that they get them ISBN
> numbers or they don't have them.
> Quoting
>> 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
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