Re: [Videolib] ISBN #s

Marlene Graham (
Thu, 23 Mar 2006 12:02:35 -0500

The ISBN suffix is unique for each company. I don't think they are

Marlene Graham
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

Quoting Ciara Healy <>:

> Hey,
> 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.
> Ciara
>>>> >>>
> 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
> 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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