January 24, 2022

What is the Future for ISBN? An Interview with Stella Griffiths, Executive Director of the International ISBN Agency

A new post on the International Publishers Association web site features a brief interview with Stella Griffiths, Executive Director of the International ISBN (International Standard Book Number) Agency.

The interview consists of five questions and answers.

Here’s one of exchanges.

Q. Looking forward, do you see an alternative standard coming along to replace ISBNs?

Stella Griffiths: As far as print is concerned, ISBN’s position is pretty secure. There are no obvious candidates to replace it. Digital is obviously a different matter. ISBN fits the bill for e-books, just as for print, but there are alternatives, eg using proprietary identifiers. Amazon has its own numbering system which is separate from, and not a substitute for, ISBN – it’s not a number that can be used in the general supply chain, only within the Amazon walled garden.

Today, content is being sold in different ways. It’s now possible to sell individual parts of a book, eg chapters or other elements. It’s important to note that if, as a publisher, you intend to produce and monetize these different, micro-formats, each one will require a separate ISBN if it’s going into the supply chain. Publishers fear the complexity of assigning ISBNs to all the different formats they might produce, but if you plan to make your product range more diverse, you’ll need to so that all your products are identified.

There’s a popular misconception that ISBNs are a kind of magic number, and that having it on the copyright page or the back cover will in itself generate more sales or guarantee a book’s prestige or quality. In fact, it’s just the beginning of the story – an essential building block towards the creation of the metadata profile, the marketing campaign, and later facilitation of order and sales processing.

Read the Complete Interview

See Also: ISBN’s Global Register of Publishers (Free to Use After Registration)
This online research tool became available online last October.

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.