Re: [Videolib] ISBN #s

Ciara Healy (
Thu, 23 Mar 2006 10:22:31 -0500

Have you thought about other production companies that maybe have gone
out of business or have morphed into another kind of business that
might be willing to sell or (cross your fingers) give you their ISBN
numbers that they don't use.

>>> >>>
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
run into a roadblock, as I mentioned. Here is what I have learned so

1. Bowker is indeed the only agency that can assign ISBNs in the US
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
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
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
country of origin and second of all the particular publisher, it's much
convenient and less error-prone for a publisher to have the same prefix
all titles. (To put this in perspective, the current 10-digit system
of 7 digits of prefix and only 3 of suffix that changes with each
issue for smaller publishers is that Bowker sells ISBNs in blocks of
and you can only get a consistent prefix when you purchase that
block; you can't go back and get more numbers for that prefix. The
more affordable blocks are much more expensive per number than the
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
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
the size of a publishing/media house by its ISBN; as far as I know,
not possible now.)

4. The tooth fairy doesn't put ISBNs under your pillow, Jessica.
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
contractor like a copyright/permissions professional or lawyer) assigns

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

Many thanks again for this listserv.

Jocelyn Riley

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