30 years, the ISBN might be getting a facelift.
updated International Standard Book Number being proposed by a standards
organization will increase the number of titles computer systems can track.
could also require publishers to spend millions on software upgrades. The
reason: The proposal expands the ISBN to 13 digits, breaking computer programs
designed to use the original 10-digit standard.
update is being developed by the International Organization for Standardization
(ISO). The group has overseen the standard since 1972.
ISBN is used by publishers, distributors, and retailers to identify books in 160
countries. The new standard could be in place by 2004.
of the change say the update is needed to avoid running out of ISBN numbers, and
to make ISBN compatible with
a shift under way at the retailer level, and the entire
means software at publishers, printers, distributors, retailers, and libraries
will require potentially costly updates to expand 10-digit ISBN codes to 13.
not unlike the Y2K situation, where databases with 2-digit years had to be
updated to 4 digits, Harris says. "Across the publishing house and the
supply chain, the 10-digit ISBN is likely to be embedded in a lot of different
department [computer] programs and operations. Those will have to be
members of the ISO committee say upgrade fees won't become a major expense for
publishers. However, the committee plans to consider the issue.
ISBN number mostly impacts communication with the retail sector, and it could be
that internal operations won't be affected," says Ed Ramsey, director of
corporate application services, Random House,
Association of American Publishers (AAP), a trade group representing book
publishers, is challenging the proposed change.
are still evaluating whether and when there is a need to change over to a
13-digit system," says Ed McCoyd, director of digital policy with the AAP,
agrees aligning the ISBN with the EAN.UCC would help publishers, distributors,
and global book retailers. "It will enable
first ISO committee draft of the proposed revised standard will be released this
year, followed by a three month ballot and comment period. Barring any show
stopping delays, the 13-digit ISBN would then be on track for global
implementation by 2004.