Time To Bury The #ISBN? A Guest Post for BookMachine
We were invited again by the lovely folks at Bookmachine to guest post on the future of the ISBN. Ricardo Fayet describes the intricacies and business model of the current system, how the French and the Canadian do it (yes, they always need to be different, don’t they?) and how we can imagine a better system for the future.
The latest AuthorEarnings reports from indie author Hugh Howey and his collaborator “data guy” unleashed a new debate in the publishing industry, this time focused on ISBNs for eBooks. “30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S. do not use ISBN numbers,” writes Howey–a statistic that forces us to question the validity of all data that comes out of ISBN tracking. He goes on to say that “the ISBN is dead. It’s just not buried yet.” Is it really time for each of us to grab a shovel?
Pulling the plug on the main source of data income in the publishing industry isn’t as easy as sweeping it under the rug (or underground). This data tracked by ISBNs serves publishers, publishing-related companies, bookstores, journalists, etc. The problem is that most of this “data”, for the sales of electronic formats, comes from one company, Amazon, which is not going to reveal it any time soon. Though AuthorEarnings offers a glimpse of what’s happening at the book sales behemoth, the reports are generated by a two-man, highly unofficial initiative. Howey & Co. basically “crawl” Amazon’s bestsellers lists with an algorithm (to determine what book is in which position) then use comparatives to estimate each book’s sales according to its ranking. I think it’s genius, and pretty accurate at that, but there’s no statistical way to guarantee a variance on these estimates.