RE: [Videolib] ISBN #s

Mike Tribby (
Thu, 23 Mar 2006 13:16:45 -0600

A reason that many non-book materials carry ISBNs is to ease their handling
in large retailers' systems. In some cases, Amazon notably, this can
inadvertently lead to problems when updated material like new editions come
into the system. Since this is an unlikely event in the commercial life of a
DVD or VHS it's probably less of a concern for video vendors. Kino probably
depends less on Amazon, WalMart, and their ilk for sales, so for Kino the
ISBN blocks could be an easily eliminated cost factor.

Many library ILS' rely on ISBNs as a matching point, but as Bryan pointed
out earlier this is a potential problem because of the propensity of some
vendors to re-use them. Since ISBNs belong to the publisher or vendor there
is no ultimate control over how they are used like there would theoretically
be with LCCNs or OCLC numbers.

Mike Tribby
Senior Cataloger
Quality Books Inc.
The Best of America's Independent Presses

-----Original Message-----
From: Jessica Rosner []
Sent: Thursday, March 23, 2006 11:49 AM
Subject: Re: [Videolib] ISBN #s

It seems that some of our older films ( DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, COME AND SEE)
have them but most newer ones don't. I am afraid this is not anything we
would pursue or pay for on our own so I assume most of our films will not
have them. I would be surprised if companies like New Yorker, Wellspring,
Koch Lorber etc have them either but I don't really know.

On 3/23/06 9:44 AM, "Marlene Graham" <> wrote:

> Jessica
> 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.
> Cheers,
> Marlene
> 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
> Quoting
>> 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
>> 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
>>> 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 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
>>> 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
>>> 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
>>> 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
>>> 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
>>> 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,
>>> 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
>>> already
>>> assigned (and with a variety of prefixes, one for each publisher). But
>>> any
>>> that Kino actually publishes, someone on your staff (or possibly an
>>> contractor like a copyright/permissions professional or lawyer) assigns
>>> ISBN.
>>> 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
>>> startup
>>> 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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Proud Resident of a BLUE STATE

Jessica Rosner
Kino International
333 W 39th St. 503
NY NY 10018

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