ISBN-13 mysteries.

Okay, who can help me out with this.

My ISBN-13 assumptions:

1) ISBN-13s that begin with 978 can be “converted” to a 10-digit ISBN that still uniquely identifies the same ‘thing’ (roughly, a manifestation).

2) However, ISBN-13s that begin with 979 can not be.

3) ISBN-13s that begin with 979 are already allowed by the standard, and probably already exist somewhere, if not in the US, or if not now very soon. (It’s up to the national ISBN registrar to decide when/how to begin using 979s).

Okay, so far so good. But these assumptions were challenged when on a listserv recently, someone provided examples of cataloging copy that seemed to present a 979 ISBN-13 with an equivelent ‘converted’ ISBN-10.

Were these in error, they blindly applied the “conversion” routine appropriate to a 978 to a 979?  Or was I wrong? (Or, it occured to me only later, as you’ll see, was it a typo, and those really were 978 not 979 ISBNs?)

Here is an example:

Leadership in post compulsory education : inspiring leaders of the future / Jill Jameson.
Published London : David Fulton, c2006.

So I figure, let’s look these up in Books In Print, see what it says. Look up the 10-digit, 1843123398, yep it corresponds to that book. But that book is reported as having a 13-digit ISBN identical to the one given in the example but beginning with 978. 978-1-84312-339-2. Identical except for the different trailing checksum digit, which was computed based on the 978. Well, sure, if it’s a 978 ISBN, it can be converted to a 10-digit losslessly.

So was it a typo in the cataloging? Doesn’t sound like it, a typo wouldn’t result in the different ‘correct’ checksum digit too.

Well, let’s look up that 979 ISBN-13 in BiP, and see what happens. When I look up 9791843123391, BiP still gives me the same result list, containing Leadership in post compulsory… . But the actual records in BiP don’t contain that 979 ISBN, they just contain the 978 ISBN.

Huh? What’s going on?  Has this item been issued both a 978 and a 979 13-digit ISBN?  That doesn’t seem right.


2 thoughts on “ISBN-13 mysteries.”

  1. ISBN-13s can be converted to 10s but shouldn’t for commercial purposes or cataloging. is the ISBN Agency’s conversion tool (free).

    979s are not available yet in the US. they are available in Europe on a very limited basis and it is estimated they will be available in the US in 2010. there are plenty of 978 prefixes available.

    the 979 reference in the article and found in BIP is an incorrect reference and i will refer this to the folks at Bowker who handle it. 979s are NOT the same as 978s as assigned.

  2. The publishing industry did not honor the ISBN-10 standard either. I have seen revised editions that continued with the same ISBN-10 and I have seen ISBN-10’s being reused for a completely different work.

    On the other hand, these examples

    seem to be a case where a cataloguer either used an ISBN-13 calculator to invent the 979-number, since the publisher is only using the ISBN-10, OR they copied the barcode of a special issue of a journal (Bookland 979) and invented the ISBN-10.

    There are German publishers who already are using real 979 ISBN-13’s, but there are also German publishers who use false ISBN-13’s on their books:

    In this case the national library of Germany indicated this in their catalog so in WorldCat it is listed under the correct ISBN-10 and ISBN-13.

    Display where the ISBN added entry does show:

    Displays where the ISBN added entry does not show (and where an attempt to link it to a bookstore of course fails):

    So basically, there are some creative people out there who continue to mess up the relationship between ISBN and manifestation.

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