ISBN Changes Could Cost Publishers
"The 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, Westminster, Md. "But this is something we need to examine closely."
The Association of American Publishers (AAP), a trade group representing book publishers, is challenging the proposed change.
"We 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, in New York. "We think there is an abundant supply [of ISBN numbers]. We also think the cost to change over will be significant, and one that publishing managers will have to be convinced is worth engaging in."
McCoyd agrees aligning the ISBN with the EAN.UCC would help publishers, distributors, and global book retailers. "It will enable U.S. publishers to more easily sell their products abroad, because most major booksellers are already equipped to accept the 13-digit bar code," he says.
However, most U.S. and Canadian supermarkets and other book retailers today accept only a 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) at checkout, McCoyd says. Those systems would also require computer updates.
The 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 showstopping delays, the 13-digit ISBN would then be on track for global implementation by 2004.
- Warren Chiara