From The Digital Reader:
There are two frequently repeated misconceptions about the ebook market that continue to be repeated no matter how often they are debunked.
The first is that AAP publisher ebook revenue is the sum of global ebook sales, and the second is that ISBN registrations equals the number of titles published by indie authors each year.
The first misconception still hasn’t died out despite numerous repetitions – including in every AAP press release – explaining that the AAP stats reflect publisher revenues, not what consumers paid to retailers, and that the stats reflect less than half the market (indies and non-AAP publishers account for the rest).
The misconception about ISBNs, on the other hand, looked like it had died out a couple years ago after countless repetitions pointing out that an ISBN is not required to bring an ebook to market, so a lot of authors don’t bother getting one and thus the reported stats about ISBNs registered every year don’t mean what you think they mean.
Alas, Bowker, the company that administers ISBNs in the US, seems determined to revive this misconception. For reasons known only to them, earlier this week they misrepresented their annual report on ISBN registrations:
According to the latest report from ProQuest affiliate Bowker, self-publishing grew at a rate of more than 28 percent in 2017, up from an 8 percent increase during the prior year. The total number of self-published titles grew from 786,935 to 1,009,188, surpassing the million mark for the first time.
. . . .
While the statistics are factually correct, Bowker’s description is utter hokum.
Here’s some background for those just hearing about this issue for the first time.
- An ISBN is more or less a serial number for a book. You must get one for a print book or it can’t be distributed, but the same is not true for an ebook (although there are benefits to getting an ISBN for an ebook).
- ISBN registrations are handled by a different agency in each country. In the US, that is Bowker.
- Since Bowker charges for ISBNs, a lot of authors save money by not getting an ISBN for their ebook.
- Bowker only license ISBNs in the US, and nowhere else, sothey can’t tell you the number of ISBNs registered by self-published authors in, say, Canada.
This means that Bowker’s claim of a million indie titles published is a miscount that ignores the entire rest of the world as well as the majority of ebooks published in any given year.
Link to the rest at The Digital Reader
In PG’s ineffably humble opinion, Bowker is a classic example of a monopolist straining to hold on to its monopoly long after whatever usefulness the underlying service may have once provided has disappeared.
The ISBN number feels like a relic of the mainframe age when full-text search was barely imagined. If you wanted to find a particular book, the mainframe would deliver you the relevant information if you properly entered a ten-digit ISBN number.
Then the bar code reader was invented and (halleluiah!) you could scan a bar code instead of mistyping the ISBN number twice before getting it right.
Demonstrating that it will never fall behind the times, the International ISBN Agency decreed that an ISBN number must have 13 digits in 2007.
ISBN issuance is country-specific, in that ISBNs are issued by the ISBN registration agency that is responsible for that country or territory. In some countries, ISBN’s are issued by non-profit or government entities and don’t cost very much. In the United States, Bowker, a for-profit (and how) company holds the exclusive rights to issue ISBN numbers.
Large publishing companies pay less for each ISBN number than small publishers do. The smaller the publisher, the higher the likely per-ISBN price is.
Indie authors will be happy to know that Bowker has not forgotten them. It offers “simple solutions for the self-publisher . . . Whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned professional, we have a solution to fit your needs” To show how well it understands self-publishers, Bowker has some cool and sophisticated self-publishing clip-art on its landing page.
For only $395, you can obtain ten (count ’em ten!) ISBN numbers and two bar codes!!!!
That’s about $40 bucks per ISBN, the issuance of which requires less than 1/1000 (or maybe 1/1000000000000) of a second for one of Bowker’s computers.
As far as bar codes are concerned, you can generate ISBN bar codes online at no cost. PG is certain that Bowker claims its bar codes are better, but if a bar code scanner reads your free ISBN bar code, whoever may want to order your book via ISBN will be happy.
Speaking of which, who actually uses ISBN bar codes? Physical bookstores and libraries.
How many indie authors make $395 selling their books (at a large discount from list price) to physical bookstores and libraries?
“I am so impressed that your ebook has a 13-digit ISBN number!” said no reader to an indie author ever.
Speaking of costs, Canadian ISBN numbers are free for Canadian publishers and self-publishers, demonstrating that Canadians understand the true worth of an ISBN number.