Why did ISBN users begin making New Year 2007 resolutions in 2005?

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1 January 2007 is the implementation date for the new 13-digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN) which will provide the international book identification system with increased capacity for the future, benefiting publishers, booksellers and libraries worldwide – as well as readers.

Everyone who records, stores or exchanges ISBN data in an automated system will have to ensure that those systems can accommodate the 13-digit ISBN format by 1 January 2007. Although the change primarily affects systems, it will also have an impact on editorial processes, sales and marketing, warehouse management, production, accounting and cataloguing.

The fourth edition of ISO 2108, Information and documentation – International Standard Book Number (ISBN),published in 2005, became necessary because the very success of the ISBN system, up to now based on 10 digits, has been causing it to run out of capacity. The new version of the ISO standard guarantees future ISBN capacity through a 13-digit system fully compatible with the original one.

By setting 1 January 2007 as the implementation date, the ISO standard has allowed for advance preparation by the publishing industry and its outlets – both traditional and, increasingly, Web based – to accommodate this major change to the identification system.

Since 1970, the ISBN has become an essential feature of the global book trade and a vital component in library catalogue records because a unique ISBN accompanies a book or similar monographic publication from its production and onwards throughout the supply and distribution chain. It is the key to ordering systems and also facilitates rights management and the monitoring of sales data.

The explosive growth of electronic publishing has added to pressure on the supply of ISBNs as publishers seize the opportunities afforded by the Web and e-commerce to sell publications in new ways.

ISO 2108:2005, Information and documentation – International Standard Book Number (ISBN), costs 99 Swiss francs and is available from ISO national member institutes (see the complete list with contact details) and from ISO Central Secretariat (see below). It was developed by working group WG 4 of ISO technical committee ISO/TC 46, Information and documentation, subcommittee SC 9, Identification and description.

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