The ISBN still has a place in the digital world

The Economist may think ISBNs are doomed, but Bowker's Laura Dawson has a different take.

A recent post at The Economist declared the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) an analog relic that “increasingly hampers new, small and individual publishers,” and an industry shift toward digital is “weakening its monopoly.” The post stated:

“Self-published writers are booming; sales of their books increased by a third in America in 2011. Digital self-publishing was up by 129%. This ends the distinction between publisher, distributor and bookshop, making ISBNs less necessary. … in the digital realm what matters is not the number that a publisher gives a book, but how easily it can be downloaded and for how much.”

I reached out to Laura Dawson (@ljndawson), product manager for identifiers at Bowker, to find out if the ISBN is indeed on its way out. Our interview follows.

Is the post at The Economist onto something? Are ISBNs becoming less necessary?

Laura DawsonLaura Dawson: ISBNs are necessary if the self-published author intends to sell her books using the traditional book supply chain. If the author is selling direct from her own website, or solely through Amazon (which doesn’t require ISBNs), then no ISBN is necessary. But if the author is distributing her books through a third-party distributor (such as Ingram, or Bookmasters, etc.), then an ISBN will be required. If the author is placing books at Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million or Hastings, an ISBN will be required.

Read more…

Publishing News: Week in Review

Publishing News: Week in Review

An easy how-to on stripping DRM, venture capitalism hasn't dried up yet, and new ISBN ISO standards may be underway.

This week, Wired Magazine and Apprentice Alf schooled everyone in DRM stripping; LOLcats, social publishing and cloud archiving topped venture capital interests; and it may be time to move a digital ISBN ISO beyond an industry "recommendation."

The Book Industry Study Group reviews ISBN standards

The Book Industry Study Group reviews ISBN standards

A new ISBN ISO for identifying digital content will require buy-in from all parties.

As ISO ISBN standards are developed for the digital age, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) is looking over results from a new ebook ISBN study.