ISBNs are expensive for U.S. Authors and Small Presses

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Brian Lewis
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ISBNs are expensive for U.S. Authors and Small Presses

Post by Brian Lewis » August 16th, 2014, 2:58 pm

You won't need this if you're in a country with reasonably-priced (or free) ISBNs.

You won't need this if you're only publishing through CreateSpace, or if you're only publishing digital formats directly through distribution channels (Amazon, Nook, Kobo) instead of through an aggregator.

However, if you're like me, and you operate a small press that publishes both print and digital formats (or maybe you're an independent author who self-publishes in multiple formats), and you're based in the United States, you've probably noticed that ISBN pricing is intentionally designed to create a cost-prohibitive barrier to entry for smaller publishers.

Some of you have already completed our survey ("Would you buy an inexpensive ISBN from a small press?"). Thank you! If you haven't already filled it out, it would be great to get your insights—help us see if we're alone in our approach, and if not, whether we can help each other or better meet your needs.

Based on the responses so far, though, we've gone ahead and started offering a low-cost ISBN service: $15 or less for your own imprint, and $10 or less to use our "Empire & Great Jones Little Press" imprint (with our review of your manuscript to make sure it fits with our goals).

Basically, we're taking the hit up front for a block of ISBNs that is bigger than we could possibly use in the next 5 years. Reserving some for ourselves, by making the rest available to other small presses like us, we recoup some of the expense and help out our cohorts in the industry!

As a non-profit dedicated to supporting great writing talent, that fits our mission perfectly.

The survey: Would you buy an inexpensive ISBN from a small press?
The ISBN purchase page: store.egjpress.org/isbn

Brian Lewis
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Re: ISBNs are expensive for U.S. Authors and Small Presses

Post by Brian Lewis » August 16th, 2014, 8:12 pm

Brian Lewis wrote:you've probably noticed that ISBN pricing is intentionally designed to create a cost-prohibitive barrier to entry for smaller publishers.
It's been pointed out privately that the actual intent is to keep the issuing agency from losing money; I should have said "seem to be designed" and not asserted my opinion as fact.

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polymath
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Re: ISBNs are expensive for U.S. Authors and Small Presses

Post by polymath » August 16th, 2014, 8:59 pm

I don't see ISBN assignments as a particular cost bar to small publishers. For similar reasons I won't accept a CreateSpace or Lulu or Lightning Source ISBN assignment I would reluctantly accept one from a small publisher. Ten and thirteen digit ISBNs associate a second or more generation source agency with the ISBN. A CreateSpace ISBN is a CreateSpace ISBN and its attendant reputation attachments; however, those meta codes are invisible to most consumers though not brick-and-mortar bookstores that will balk at any product associated with a predatory competitor sales mill like Amazon.

I'm also baffled by why a serial publication even needs ISBNs. ISSNs are the international standard business identifier for periodicals. They are more cost and labor efficient than ISBNs, less complicated to use by producer, distributor, and wholesale and retail channel outlets, though serial publications come either way with more complex copyright registration and mandatory deposit requirements that are only slight considerations. The obverse though, is how online retailers index serial publications under an ISSN, alongside magazines and serial digests, which Barnes and Noble doesn't retail. An ISBN is workaround for serial publication indexing and restrictions at online retailers. An ISSN says ongoing serial publication product: magazine; an ISBN says standalone publication product: book.

R.R. Bowker satisfied numerous federal government legal requirements related to conflict of interest scenarios in becoming the U.S. ISBN franchisee, among them divesting a large number of their backlist reproduction rights titles and no longer taking on new ones not related to ISBN areas. Their principal business book anymore relates to ISBN management and publication indexing and publication statistics products.
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mttco
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Re: ISBNs are expensive for U.S. Authors and Small Presses

Post by mttco » October 28th, 2014, 5:40 pm

Small presses and self publishers aren't really suffering through a $15-$10 / ISBN cost... This post is actually a promotion for the OP's ISBN selling website.

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