The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 10-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally. What is the purpose of an ISBN?
The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.
There are over 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, and each ISBN Agency is appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory. Kenya National Library Services assigns ISBNs to Kenyan publishers. Once an ISBN publisher prefix and associated block of numbers has been assigned to a publisher by the ISBN Agency, the publisher can assign ISBNs to publications it holds publishing rights to. However, after the ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs to a publisher, that publisher cannot resell, re-assign, transfer, or split its list of ISBNs among other publishers. These guidelines have long been established to ensure the veracity, accuracy and continued utility of the international ISBN standard. As defined by the ISO Standard, the ISBN publisher prefix (or "root" of the ISBN) identifies a single publisher. If a second publisher subsequently obtains an ISBN from the assigned publisher's block of ISBNs, there will be no change in the publisher of record for any ISBN in the block as originally assigned. Therefore, searches of industry databases for that re-assigned ISBN will identify the original owner of that assigned prefix as the publisher rather than the second publisher. Discovering this consequence too late can lead to extensive costs in applying for a new prefix, re-assigning a new ISBN, and potentially leading to the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation.
If you are a new publisher, you should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain. You may encounter offers from other sources to purchase single ISBNs at special offer prices; you should be wary of purchasing from these sources for the reasons noted above. There are unauthorized re-sellers of ISBNs and this activity is a violation of the ISBN standard and of industry practice. If in doubt please contact Kenya National Library Services.
ISBN is an identifier of monographic publications (books) and related products available to the public. ISBN should not be used to identify files that only pass between publishers and typesetters or e-book conversion services, nor should it identify abstract entities such as textual works (content). Publications need separate ISBNs if anyone in the supply chain needs to identify them separately.
End users need to know a) whether the e-book that they are purchasing will work on their device or software and
b) what they will be able to do with it (e.g. copy, print, lend etc.). This is normally defined by a combination of file format and Digital Rights Management software. Separate ISBNs will facilitate management, dissemination and discovery of that information as well as delivery of the appropriate version of an e-book. Separate ISBNs also facilitate the listing of various e-book versions in trade databases, sales and usage reporting and e-commerce transactions, especially where multiple formats are sold through the same channel.
If the different versions use the same DRM software (e.g. Adobe ACS4) with substantially the same settings and are interoperable on different devices or software, then a single ISBN should be used. If, however, the same DRM software is used on two versions but with significantly different settings (e.g. one allows printing but the other does not) then each version should have its own separate ISBNs. If proprietary DRM is used that ties a version to a specific platform, device or software then, if ISBNs are assigned (see 6 below), separate ISBNs should be used for each such version.
The key features are whether any specific device or software is required to read the e-book and what user functionality is provided (e.g. copy, print, lend etc.). As mentioned above, this is normally defined by a combination of file format and Digital Rights Management software.
ONIX for Books is the international standard for representing and communicating book industry product information in electronic form. The latest release, 3.0, has improved handling of digital publications and provides structures for describing product form detail and DRM usage constraints. Even if you do not use ONIX, you can use the standard codes to describe product form and usage constraints listed in the relevant sections of code lists version 12 (DRM–related codes, lists 144-147; product content type, list 81; product form detail, list 175). Further information on ONIX for Books 3.0 and code lists is available at http://www.editeur.org/93/Release-3.0-Downloads/
No, unless it is also being made available to the public in exactly the same form as your master file (i.e. unchanged file format and without DRM applied). You should assign separate ISBNs to each version generated by the conversion service (see also question 6 below). If your legacy computer system requires an ISBN to identify a master file, then this should be kept as a purely internal identifier to avoid the possibility of several different versions carrying the same ISBN.
It is not necessary to do so, unless it is useful for your own purposes or you want that version to be listed in third-party databases of available e-books . However, since these platforms are generally not interoperable, if you do assign ISBNs, make sure that they are unique to each version to avoid problems if those versions should later become available through third parties.
If a publisher will not provide ISBNs to intermediaries for this purpose then, as a last resort, intermediaries may assign their own ISBNs. ISBN agencies will provide ISBN prefixes to intermediaries for this purpose. In this case ISBNs and related metadata should be provided back to the publisher and to the national ISBN agency and other bibliographic agencies. Note that the assignment of an ISBN has no implications for rights ownership.
Not at all. If the content, file format, DRM and settings are unchanged, then any variation that depends on the device or software used to read the e-book does not impact on the ISBN. Note that provision of mono or colour images in separate e-publications intended respectively for mono or colour devices constitutes a change of content – and therefore of ISBN. However if colour images only are provided, but a particular device has only a mono display, that is simply a device limitation and does not imply a second ISBN
Yes, provided that there is significant textual content. An e-book app is simply a combination of textual and other content and software. If the software element is different (e.g. targeted on different operating systems), then each version should have a separate ISBN. However, please see question 6 above. If the app is only being made available through a single source, then ISBNs may not be necessary.
The ISTC (International Standard Text Code) is a new ISO identifier that identifies the underlying textual content of the book and is therefore shared by all digital and physical manifestations of the same title. The assignment of ISTCs would facilitate the linking of all versions and, with the addition of a filtering element such as product form, could also be used to link all e-book versions. Some systems already use an internal work identifier to provide this functionality but this cannot be used in the supply chain. Note that the implementation of ISTC also facilitates the“inheritance“ of metadata from work level to manifestation level and can save rekeying. Further information on ISTC is available at http://www.istc-international.org
If you are making chapters or other parts of a book separately available through the normal supply chain and want to have them listed in trade databases then you should regard them as individual publications and assign ISBNs to them. If they will only be available through a single source, such as the publisher’s website, then proprietary internal identifiers will be adequate.