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Dan Holloway May 21, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Joel, this is fascinating stuff. I think the key part that needs emphasising is that bit about the Kindle. ISBNs are – currently – essential for self-publishers of books that they want people to stumble across on Amazon, but – to be quite honest – that is about it. Many of us self-publishers take the view that the key to long-term success doing it our own way has to be building a loyal following who will stay with us book after book, and talking directly to that audience. Stumblers are great but they’re not our core. If we are speaking to fans, and those fans are loyal, then we just don’t need an ISBN – and the more alt/indie the titles one produces the more NOT having an ISBN adds cachet – many of my readers would walk away if they found me on Amazon.

The publishing industry is full of protectionism, cartels and restricted practices. The use of ISBNs is just one. Is anyone actually seriously suggesting we will be using ISBNs in 10 years’ time?


Mayowa May 19, 2010 at 8:56 am

Great Interview Joel.

Maybe I’m being optimistic here, but these folks seem to be actively navigating the sea of changes that digitization brings to books.

I’m still a bit wary of the whole buy more at a cheaper price model for the ISBNs. I’m not sure why my local grocery store and Bowker have to use the same model given that one sells physical items and the other identifying information.


Joel Friedlander May 19, 2010 at 11:49 am

Thanks, Mayowa. This information is pretty vital to publishers. The entire pricing model is a bit wacky to me, and although Andy ran through “what you get” for your money, there are many questions left unanswered.

I will say that Bowker seems to be more forward-thinking than you might have guessed in that they are trying to find ways to adapt to the new digital reality. For a large, conservative company used to being more in the shadow than the light, this is encouraging.


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