For Ebooks, An ISBN Dilemma

This article, podcast and transcript, by Chris Kenneally, originally appeared on the Copyright Clearance Center’s Beyond the Book site on 2/14/11 and are provided here with that site’s permission.

Not so long ago, a book was an unmistakable object. Then someone came along and started digitizing content, and very soon, books were something else, something much more than ink on dead trees. That transformation, indeed the redefinition of books, matters enormously to readers and publishers, as well as retailers and librarians. Without a way to identify “books” as they are published, information and creativity could be orphaned.

To discuss this challenge, CCC’s Chris Kenneally recently spoke with publishing consultant Michael Cairns who had just completed a report for the Book Industry Study Group examining practices in the identification of e-books in all their vast variety. The research turned up several surprising findings, as well as revealed a tension between US publishers and their counterparts around the world.

“We’re in this transition between the sale of a physical book to one that’s a digital book, and in that transition, some aspects of the ISBN number are not being upheld as they were in the physical world,” notes Cairns, who is a highly-regarded blogger at PersonaNonData. “And when there’s a breakdown, that starts to increase the likelihood that the supply chain does not operate as efficiently as perhaps it should or could. And so that’s a real issue.”

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