Re: Persistent Documents and Locations

Thacker Jane (JAT@ABS.NLC-BNC.CA)
Mon, 28 Aug 1995 15:27:00 -0700 (PDT)

Date: Mon, 28 Aug 1995 15:27:00 -0700 (PDT)
From: Thacker Jane <JAT@ABS.NLC-BNC.CA>
Subject: Re: Persistent Documents and Locations
To: lazear <>, owner-uri <>,
Cc: uri <>
Message-Id: <>

In his message dated August 26, 1995,  Patrik wrote:

>I started that a ISBN is persistent, unique and all of that,
>but that is as false as the statement that the moon is made
>of cheese.
>The fact is this:
... (some text deleted) ...
>Sometimes, it's better for a publisher to stay within his series
>of ISBNs. He do that by reusing ISBN numbers!
>(1) The lifetime of a ISBN is sometimes as short as _one_ single
>    print of a book.
>(2) The uniqueness of a ISBN is by far not true.
>(3) There is nothing like a "referral" from an old number
>    to a new one, you have to call the publisher himself.

As Secretary of the ISO committee that's responsible for the ISBN standard, 
I'd like to correct the above statement about ISBN practice.  A publisher 
should NEVER reuse an ISBN number.  Although there is no mechanism in place 
to prevent a publisher from printing the same ISBN on two different works, 
it is made very clear to all publishers within the ISBN system that numbers 
are NOT to be re-used once they are assigned to a specific edition of a 
Here is what the ISBN users' manual says about this under the heading "ISBN 
     "An ISBN once allocated must, under no circumstances, be re-used.  This 
is of the utmost importance to avoid confusion.  It is recognized that, 
owing to clerical errors, numbers will be incorrectly assigned.  If this 
happens, the number must be deleted from the list of useable nmbers and must 
not be assigned to another title.  Every publisher will have sufficient 
numbers in his range for the loss of these numbers to be insignificant. 
 Publishers should advise the group agency of the numbers thus deleted and 
of the titles to which they were erroneously assigned."

In fact, the "lifetime" of an ISBN is indefinite even though the shelf-life 
of the specific edition to which it is assigned may be short.   When ISBN 
are applied properly as required by the ISO  standard, the International 
ISBN Agency and the system of ISBN national and regional agencies,  they are 
unique and persistent.
With regards,
Jane Thacker
ISO/TC46/SC9 Secretariat
National Library of Canada