Monthly Archives: March 2020

The Numbers Game!

Let’s play! 

An ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is a controlled identification number (10 or presently 13-digits) which allows libraries, publishers, educational institutions, and, vendors, to identify specific books and book-like things.  Now, challenge yourself with some finer points.  Statements are True or False. Test your awareness before reading the remark that follows.

1. An ISBN validates that the book has been copyrighted.

ISBNs are administered by a private company for the purpose of book trade. Copyright is administered by Library of Congress and relates to intellectual property law. (False)

2. Self-published materials should have ISBNs.

ISBNs are considered to be essential, if the author intends to offer the book for distribution, purchase or placement in a library. (True)

3. 13-digit ISBNs will always start with “978”.

In 2007, ISBNs changed from 10-digits to 13-digits.  The 13-digit ISBNs all began with the number sequence “978”. In 2020, Bowker, the primary U.S. source for ISBNs, no longer has sets (or blocks) of 978 number sequence identifiers available. So, Bowker has started issuing ISBNs beginning with “979”. Publishers, however, who had acquired blocks of “978” numbers previously and have a good supply of them on hand, are likely to be using them up for a few more years.  (False)

4. Different forms of a book can all share the same ISBN.

Each format needs a unique ISBN, whether it is regular print, large print, or an audiobook. A book translated into a different language needs a unique ISBN.  New editions of books need different ISBNs also.  (False)

5. A book that is going to be reprinted by a different printer and distributed by a different distributor needs a new ISBN.

 A book with no significant alteration to the text may be reprinted and distributed using the original ISBN, even if the printer and distributor change. (False)

6. ISBNs can expire and be reused.

ISBNs never expire and are not intended to be reused. (False)

7. DVDs can be issued ISBNs.

If a DVD is instructional or educational, then the DVD is eligible for an ISBN.  If the DVD is for entertainment or performance, then technically, it should not get an ISBN.  Sometimes the retail market persuades publishers to bend on this in order to manage product identification. (True)

8. An ISBN on a book is the same thing as its barcode.

Although you may see the ISBN printed above a barcode, they are not alike.  The barcode is derived from the ISBN (which is a constant) and can also include pricing and currency form (so this portion can change).  (False)

9. ISBNs can only be purchased from Bowker.

 ISBNs are used throughout the world.  Countries have different systems for issuing them. In the United States, ISBNs can be purchased directly from Bowker (starting at $125 each and getting much cheaper in bulk). Private publishers also can purchase ISBNs in blocks or sets from Bowker and administer their use.  All titles and ISBNs must be registered (through Bowker). Barcodes can be obtained after title/ISBNs are registered. Amazon issues free ISBNs for print material that they publish; however, they also impose further restrictions the material usage. ISBNs issued by Amazon for print material also have a matching ASIN, or Amazon Standard Identification Number. (False)

                How did you do?  It’s always fun to gather new information! And, speaking of fun and new information… remember that the OLC Technical Services Retreat is coming up April 15 and 16th , 2020  in Columbus.  Hope to see you there!

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