August 14 – 21, 2008 Edition

Nielsen to Require
Multiple ISBN's
For e-Book Formats

LONDON/8/14/2008–Nielsen Book, the company that operates the UK ISBN Agency, issued a statement this week that it will not accept e-books into its database unless they have a distinct ISBN number for each electronic format. E-books, the company says, must be identified by an ISBN particular to each specified format in order to qualify for inclusion in the Nielsen Book database and appear in the BookScan charts. 

For example, an e-book title published in three different electronic formats–say, Adobe's Portable Document File format (PDF), Microsoft's .LIT format, and the e-Reader's .pdb format–would need not one ISBN number, but three.  

Nielsen said the policy conforms to recommendations made by the International ISBN Agency, which are intended to accurately identify products to retailers, libraries and consumers.

In a report on, the company said it believes e-book publishers will likely market digital content in new and different ways and that hardwiring the identification and bibliographic system to a single ISBN for a title produced in multiple formats may prove to be inflexible in the future and risks the cost of re-engineering systems down the line. "On these grounds, we recommend that publishers adopt the most flexible policy now on product identification."

Nielsen also said that each individual publisher is the "most appropriate" organization to assign ISBNs to individual products, though the company would also support third-party assignment of numbers where required. 

Undoubtedly, this will call for some publishers to re-assign many ISBN numbers for their e-book products.