Screen shot 2011-01-20 at 9.24.00 AM.pngBookNet Canada has looked at the results of the Book Industry Study Group study on ISBN practices and doesn’t like what it sees in terms of industry practice.

The results of this research are pretty distressing for someone who works with standards every day, but also (sadly) not at all surprising. …

It’s not our job to tell the industry what to do, but it is our job to provide recommendations , collect feedback, maintain standards, and disseminate this information to all players in the Canadian book industry.

So, what can we do better? We can’t provide recommendations until there is an agreed upon standard in the Canadian industry, but we can help you get there. Now that this study has been released, we’re organizing a meeting of the Canadian Bibliographic Committee at the beginning of February to discuss it in a Canadian context. If you have ideas and opinions let us know before then so we can bring it to the table. We also sit on all international committees that are related to what we do so we can represent Canadian needs in the international scene. …

Unique ISBNs need to be applied to the production format of ebooks, just like we do for print books. That way, the epub that gets sent to Kobo, Apple, Sony, etc. has the same ISBN and can be tracked through the separate channels. An enhanced epub would have a different ISBN, and a PDF a different ISBN still.

More info in the article.


  1. I see Smashwords says this for it’s own self published eBooks:
    “No, you don’t need an ISBN, although your book will be more successful if you have one. Why? If your book is in the Premium Catalog, it must have an ISBN if you want your book distributed to Sony and Apple. An ISBN number also increases the discoverability of your book, and yields additional marketing benefits such as getting your book listed in more online catalogs and databases.”

  2. EPUB is the “standard” for everyone except the one that matters.

    On a broader note… It is not surprising in the slightest that ebook retailers/publishers/etc are not following the standards. The standards make little or no sense for them. Users/readers/consumers couldn’t care less. The major retailers use internal numbering to track products.

    I think the major question should be: Is there still a point to ISBNs in the digital world? We should use ISBNs for their designed purpose, tracking physical books, not try to pretend that has any place in the digital world. If anything they should track a collection of text, the content, not the format.

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