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Old 11-28-2009, 05:51 PM   #1
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Ebooks and ISBNs

The International ISBN Agency has decided that it's time to reconsider the standard procedure for assigning ISBNs to ebooks. As a first step, they created a survey in order to collect feedback. You can find the survey here.

An ISBN is a 10 (or 13) digit number that's basically a serial number for books. If a book came out in multiple formats (paperback, hardback, etc), each format had its own ISBN. This applies to ebooks as well; an ebook has a different ISBN for each format sold (LIT, Epub, Mobi, etc). The ISBN Agency has decided to reconsider this decision.
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Old 11-28-2009, 06:04 PM   #2
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The idea of a single ISBN for every format of a given eBook is a bad idea.
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Old 11-28-2009, 07:03 PM   #3
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It would seem workable to have a common 9 or 12 digit base ISBN for an ebook - with an additional last digit/letter changed to reflect the format it's in. If in some fit of logic the last digit/letter were standardized for format, it could make search filters quite effective for sorting by format.
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Old 11-28-2009, 07:41 PM   #4
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One ISBN per book not per format, please.

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Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
The idea of a single ISBN for every format of a given eBook is a bad idea.
I disagree most strongly. An ISBN should identify the contents of an ebook, not the format. When I look for a specific book I want to find it by ISBN and then pick the format I want to purchase/read, not have to guess if it is the contents are the same between formats with different ISBNs. This especially helps when comparing an ebook being offered by various vendors who often offer the same ebook with slightly different descriptions and cover photos.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:08 PM   #5
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I suppose the case could be argued that every format needs a unique identifier, but there's NO WAY I'm going to pay for an identifier for every format of every ebook I produce, so that's the end of it for me. That would mean 8 ISBNs for each title because it has 7 ebook formats + a print one. I own a few ISBNs that I have not used yet, and I am reserving them for future print products.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by poohbear_nc View Post
It would seem workable to have a common 9 or 12 digit base ISBN for an ebook - with an additional last digit/letter changed to reflect the format it's in. If in some fit of logic the last digit/letter were standardized for format, it could make search filters quite effective for sorting by format.
I agree with this, except I would:

- Extend it to at least 18 characters for the base ISBN. If the ISBN is going to be modified anyway, I think the total number of characters should be increased to accomodate the increasing number of titles released (12 characters allows for only 1 trillion possible numbers).

- In addition to the basic ISBN, I would add at least a three-character alphanumeric id at the end to indicate the general format, and extend it to identify printed books too (as an example, all hardbacks would end with 001, all paperbacks would end in 002, audiobooks on cassette would end in 003, and so on). This would give it room to accomodate 1,000 different formats (including obsolete formats). It would also allow you to easily identify the format of the book.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:10 PM   #7
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I agree with Keeska: often the ISBN of the book is by far the easiest way to search for it, what with vague titles, duplicate or incomplete authors on various websites not to mention "smart" search filters which give me complete rubbish results just because the word 'The' is in the title. I know if I hit the ISBN number, no matter what, if they have that specific book in store it'll show up - which is a great help.

With different ISBN's for all different formats there is no telling what might come up, if at all - you might think your favourite site does not even offer the book you are looking for just because they only have the ePub version and you have been searching for the mobi one. I already dislike the fact that ISBN's given by references are always the paper edition and I'll have to find the associated electronic version myself, it would be good not to add yet another layer of distinction to that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Solitaire1 View Post
(12 characters allows for only 1 trillion possible numbers).
You do realise, if there are 10 books released every second we will still have over 3000 years to go before that number runs out? 1 trillion really, really is a big number

Last edited by FragFrog; 11-28-2009 at 09:12 PM.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:26 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Falbe Publishing View Post
I suppose the case could be argued that every format needs a unique identifier, but there's NO WAY I'm going to pay for an identifier for every format of every ebook I produce, so that's the end of it for me. That would mean 8 ISBNs for each title because it has 7 ebook formats + a print one. I own a few ISBNs that I have not used yet, and I am reserving them for future print products.
One way to handle it is that the author must only pay for the base ISBN (and has sole control over that ISBN). The format extensions are part of the base ISBN purchase and doesn't have to be paid for separately. Also, future additional formats extensions are automatically included as part of the base ISBN and don't have to be paid for either.
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Old 11-28-2009, 09:44 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FragFrog View Post
You do realise, if there are 10 books released every second we will still have over 3000 years to go before that number runs out? 1 trillion really, really is a big number
I thought that it would a concern because of the already-existing books around the world that would also require new ISBNs. I didn't realize just how big that number actually is (it seems like a trillion has gotten much smaller recently).
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Old 11-28-2009, 10:26 PM   #10
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More fun with "trillion"-- to have a trillion books already existing would mean that one hundred million books would have had to have been published per year for the past 10,000 years.
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Old 11-28-2009, 11:09 PM   #11
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I could be wrong, but I doubt the idea of just ending the ISBN with 001 002 could not work.

In bar codes such as UPCS the last digit is always a check sum. This is a way to insure the reading device did not make a read error.

Of course this also means you REALLY don't have 10 digits or 13 digits but 9 and 12 digits to assign.
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Old 11-28-2009, 11:47 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JSWolf View Post
The idea of a single ISBN for every format of a given eBook is a bad idea.
Is this really what you meant to say... or did you mean to say:

"The idea of a single ISBN for each format of a given eBook is a bad idea."

???

I think 1 ISBN for a book title is plenty fine. What is the different what digital format it is in. I never understood separate ISBN for Hardbook vs Paperback Vs Trade either. It just seems silly and a way for whom ever hands out the ISBNs to make money.

Sure, each edition can be a different ISBN, but if the content is the same, what difference does it make what the media format it is delivered in?

BOb
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Old 11-29-2009, 12:50 AM   #13
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agree

I have to say I agree wtih the one ISBN number for the book, not for every version.

I suppose to solve the what type you could add a dash and then a number for what type of book it is.

With so many book formats I think its going to become more and more difficult to keep up with type of book changes. Though if ebooks ever get a standardized format (which will hopefully happen soon!) the version thing won't be as much of a big deal.

I have to agree at this point a trillion doesn't seem to be as big a of a number. Maybe a gazillion? that number still sounds very big!

Amy
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Old 11-29-2009, 04:35 AM   #14
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Currently, a publisher must have a seperate isbn numer for the eBook version of a book, NOT one for each ebook format, although for some reason, some distributors seem to want it that way.
I think one isbn for all ebook formats is adequate at present, but as we begin moving towards appreciating and providing the content of a book rather than the context in as many ways as the consumer wants, we will have to look at a different system with perhaps a parent digital isbn with multiple identifiers applicable in the last 2 digits.
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Old 11-29-2009, 05:42 AM   #15
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Quote:
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(it seems like a trillion has gotten much smaller recently).
For me a trillion has always been 10^18, so making it 10^12 is certainly making it a lot smaller
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