You’ve gotta be ISBN-ing me!

Most books have what is called an ISBN, or an International Something Book Number.  The “something” is not true obviously.  I just couldn’t remember what it stood for when I wrote the sentence.  It actually represents “Standard”, so once again: MOst books have what is called an ISBN number, or an International Standard Book Number.  This is essentially the book’s ID, and it’s yours to keep as long as you want it.  Owning it gives you full power over your work.  I liked the sound of it.

        The problem is, in the United States, there is an agency called Bowker, which somehow has got an absolute monopoly on the ISBN service in that country.  The company was founded back in the 19th Century by a German immigrant named Frederick Leypoldt.  He was the one who decided there was a need for a more efficient classification system in the book world, which is something you would expect from a German.  So he started up the ISBN way of doing things.  And it worked.  Today it is the universal identity tag for publications.

       Getting one costs you about $280 (thank God I make euros) but, after that, the book is all yours.  Still, the administrative fee seems a bit steep, more so these days now that it’s all done electronically.  In fact, according to their website, your number is assigned to you immediately via email (after purchase, naturally), so just how much personalized service is needed in those 300 bucks is beyond me.  But they’ve got you cornered, which is exactly the way monopolies like things.  It may, however,  just be one investment worth, well, investing in.

     Was it like that around the world?  Did the long arm of the Bowker reach Spanish territory too?  Apparently not that much.  But I didn’t know that at first.  I had read in this article that other countries, like Canada, provided this service for free.  That seemed typical the Canadians because they are such nice people, except when you are in Vancouver after a Stanley Cup Finals loss.  But aside from that uncalled for comment, they do things in a socialized human manner, and it made perfect sense you could get one there for little more than a smile and a handshake.  According to the same contributor of the article, most other countries were equally generous in handing out numbers.  I had my doubts.  This was just the kind of thing the Spanish would know how to pinch our pockets with.  I mean, in this country, getting your driver’s license drains you of about $1500, and the blatant relationship between overpriced compulsory Driver’s Education classes and passing the exam has been remarked upon and recognized for some time.  I’ve had to pay for pretty much everything official here…why should this be any different?

      It was.  TBC

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