2/26/08

My E-Book Road: 1 - ISBNs & Barcodes

Sure, you don't have to have an ISBN when you are self-publishing -- but I think it's wise to have one, and I'm investigating how to do so for my E-Books.

What the heck am I talking about? Well, ISBN stands for "International Standard Book Number" and I suppose it's analogous in its own way to a Social Security Number these days for most folks. You can manuever through the world without one, but it's a ramble.

ISBNs

ISBNs are very official, and they are assigned by a very official organization: the US ISBN agency which is run by a private firm, RR Bowker -- the publishers of Books in Print. Nice, tidy market niche they've got there, huh?

Their website offers lots and lots of information, including this list of fees:

REGULAR PROCESSING
(15 business days turnaround)

ISBN price list (the categories below include the combined processing fees and registration fees):

10 ISBNs: $275.00
100 ISBNs: $995.00
1000 ISBNs: $1,750.00


They also offer a warning about "unauthorized resellers of ISBNs", which states in part:

"If you use one of these reassigned ISBNs, you will not be correctly identified as the publisher of record in Books in Print or many of the book industry databases. The result may be extensive costs to apply for a new ISBN and 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 from the US ISBN Agency. Assigning ISBNs from your own ISBN publisher prefix will identify you as the publisher of your titles, and link your contact information to the specific publisher identifier. This will ultimately aid in circulating your books properly in the industry supply chain."


Who are these scandalous resellers? I'm not sure.

Meanwhile, I found BarCode Graphics has a good deal -- $55 for an ISBN and a Bookland EAN barcode -- promoting itself as:

"Bar Code Graphics, Inc. is not related to R.R. Bowker, but does have an agreement by which the Publisher Services division can act as an agent for small publishers and facilitate single ISBN assignments through Bowker with the publisher's name listed as the registrant (Personalized Publisher Program)."

About Those Barcodes ...

The Agency offers the official Bookland EAN format while Bar Code Graphics offers something else:

"The Bookland EAN barcode is a standardized format which is accepted by trading partners worldwide. Our experience with bar codes enables us to provide our customers with symbols which comply to the GS1 guidelines and offer assistance with providing the appropriate format. Click here for an example.

"If you require only a Bookland EAN symbol, we encourage you to purchase ISBN Bookland barcodes files from www.createbarcodes.com for only $10 each."


(Go to www.createbarcodes.com, and you find this site owned and operated by Bar Code Graphics, as well.)

The Bottom Line

$55/1 ISBN is a lot better than $275/10 ISBNS (not including barcodes). On the other hand, I am intending on writing more than one e-book, and the idea of being a real, life publisher listed in Books in Print sounds so darn - well - cool.

So, is this a good deal? What does RR Bowker say about Bar Code Graphics? I don't know yet, but I've asked them.
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