Think 13: Here Comes the New ISBN!

June 2001
by Sandra K. Paul, SKP Associates

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Yes, we got through Y2K, but now it’s time to confront the next problem. By January 1, 2005, publishers’ systems must be able to contain a 13-digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN) instead of the 10-digit ISBN we have all come to know and love. This article describes the reasons for moving to the 13-digit ISBN and what is now known about the transition, along with some questions to be resolved in the future.

Why Move to 13 Digits?

Several concerns are prompting the move to 13 digits for the ISBN. One of the primary ones is the need to accommodate more “editions” of books in the future. Today we have the hardback, trade paperback, mass-market paperback, and audio versions of the same work. We also have the Adobe Acrobat Glassbook edition, the Microsoft e-book reader edition, and the Palm e-book edition, just to mention a few. Pearson Education tells us that they will provide intellectual property marked in XML, SGML, or whatever ML or PDF you want. Print-on-demand editions may or may not need different ISBNs, depending upon whether they are produced by the same publisher in the “same format” as the original or whether the product is now owned by a different rights-holder and/or is printed to look different than the original. All of these editions will proliferate and may/will need ISBNs in the very near future.

OK, you say, so we need more numbers–why choose 13 digits? The primary reason for selecting 13 instead…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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