What is an ISBN, and Why is it Needed?
I am John Purcell, and have been a member of the Bowker U.S. ISBN Agency since September, 2011. One of the most frequent inquiries received by the U.S. ISBN Agency is: What is an ISBN, and why is it needed?
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique identifier for each product form or edition of a monographic publication. The ISBN identifies the publisher, the specific title, edition, and format of the publication. Publishers, internet retailers, booksellers, libraries, distributors and others use the ISBN for reference, in processes like ordering, sales records, product listings, and inventory control.
For that reason, it is essential that books are assigned ISBNs. Without an ISBN, it is very likely the book will not make it into the supply chain [bookstores? libraries?] and appear not to exist. Those in the industry will not want to take the costly manual steps to make a book available that doesn’t follow the industry standard.
In addition to assigning an ISBN to a book, it is also important to register title information for the ISBN. Registering the title, including book title, author name, format details, and sales and pricing information will get it into the Books In Print database. This is used daily by thousands of book professionals and library patrons to locate and purchase books, allowing each book a greater audience.
John Purcell is the manager of the U.S. ISBN Agency at Bowker. Previously, he worked for LexisNexis supporting the Martindale-Hubbell online and print directories listing background information on law firms and individual lawyers. When he is not on the phone lines at Bowker, he enjoys watching movies and reading both self-published books and traditionally published ones.