Is the ISBN an irrelevant cash grab?

Ok, some publishers are arguing the new technologies are making the ISBN irrelevant. As the eBook revolution is making it affordable for publishers to dust off their backlists, those publishers are now looking at the old ISBN rules and crying foul. ISBN rules say you’ve got to have individual ISBN for all issues and re-issues of a book, as well as eBook or CD versions of the same product. (Let’s say a minimum of 2 ISBN per book and it adds up.)

A bit of checking around showed that  ISBN prefixes cost as much as $250 for a block of ten pre-numbered ISBN purchased from any of the 160 authorized ISBN agencies worldwide.  When publishers reissue products in multiple formats from a backlist of several thousand titles, they say it’s an extra cost that is unjustified because of modern technical advances in web search, store search engines and computer databases.

Read the full lowdown on ISBN from ISBN.ORG

What is the purpose of an ISBN?
The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

What do I do when I receive the ISBN and where is it printed?
An ISBN should be assigned to each title or product, including any backlist or forthcoming titles. Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN (i.e. hardcover, paperbound, VHS video, laserdisc, e-book format, etc). A new ISBN is required for a revised edition. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. An ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

Sounds like a nice little racket. I was okay until I read you have to assign a new ISBN for each revised edition. With today’s printing technology, e.g. Print-On-Demand and the adoption of the eBook (where, frankly, editions can be revised continuously) one’s options are considerably restrained by this necessity for reclassification. Having to acquire a new ISBN for each revised edition unnecessarily complicates a process that the ISBN should streamline, one would think and it seriously restricts the flexibilty that the new publishing technology offers. Yah!

What happened to the Dewey Decimal System?

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