Dec 5 – Dec 11, 2011 Edition BISG Sets Policy for Assigning eBook ISBNs

NEW YORK, NY/AUTHORLINK NEWS/December 8, 20111—The Book Industry Study Group, after two years of work, has issued policy standards and best practices for the assignment of ISBN numbers to e-books and other digital products. The goal of the policy is to reduce confusion in the marketplace and the possibility of errors.

The policy defines how many ISBN numbers should be used and how they apply to the various formats (including enhanced books) and usage rights.


ISBNs are assigned, not created. One ISBN registration agency per country, or community, is designated by the International ISBN Agency to assign and distribute ISBNs to the publishers and self-publishers located in that area. Any number identified as an ISBN must be a valid ISBN obtained from an officially sanctioned ISBN registration agency such as R.R. Bowker, the United States ISBN Agency, or Library and Archives Canada, the Canadian ISBN Agency. At no time should a random or unsanctioned number be created and identified as an ISBN by any member of the supply chain. ISBNs for Digital Books should be labeled “ISBN”, not “eISBN.” There is no such standard as an “eISBN”, nor is this the proper way to differentiate Digital Book formats. Digital Books should never be identified with a number that is in the same format as an ISBN or labeled “ISBN” unless that number is a legitimate ISBN issued by an official ISBN registration agency, such as R.R. Bowker in the US. Digital Books should not be assigned the same ISBN as any Physical Book. Digital Books of the same title but different file format (i.e., EPUB, PDF, etc.) and/or different usage rights should not be assigned or display the same ISBN: Assigning and/or displaying the same ISBN can confuse Consumers and/or result in the delivery of an incorrect product. Assigning and/or displaying the same ISBN can affect the proper cataloging of the title by libraries and registration agencies. Ideally, identical Digital Books (i.e. an EPUB being sold on various vendor sites) should not carry different ISBNs. There must be a differentiating factor (or factors) in the Digital Book’s content, file format, usage rights or metadata to justify the assignment of a unique ISBN.

For the complete policy statement and examples go to