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Thursday, April 13, 2006
ISBN-13 and Comics
I've effectively been appointed "ISBN-13 Compliance Officer" at work. This means it's my job to keep track of which of our vendors are starting to switch over to the ISBN-13 system and which haven't. "What is an ISBN-13" you may be asking. Well, basically, it's a unique code number that's supposed to be visible on every book and book-type object sold in the world. It's a bit like a UPC code, only more specific. It's changing over because, basically, the existing ISBN-10 system has just about run out of numbers. So, I've had to learn more about the ISBN system than I really want to know. But what I keep coming back to is an utter conviction that the comic book industry, as a whole, is going to drop the ball on this. See, come January 1, 2007, book-stores will be very unhappy about having to deal with mis-labeled product. And any product that only has an ISBN-10 is going to be considered mis-labeled. I've been keeping an eye on new trades, and so far only Viz is using an ISBN-13 on their products. Marvel's not. DC's not. Tokyopop's not. Oni's not. (I haven't checked any recent Image or Dark Horse trades, or the trades of any other smaller publishers. But I'd be surprised if they're using ISBN-13s). Now, given the growing importance of book-store sales for the comics market, the seeming reluctance of comics publishers to get on the ball about this is curious. DC and Tokyopop have good book-store programs, and a strong presence in chain book-stores, so they should definitely be on the ball about this. Dark Horse is in a similar situation, with their licensed titles and the success of films based on comics published by Dark Horse. I'm not the least bit surprised Marvel hasn't rolled out any books with ISBN-13s, as Marvel frequently seems to work against their own best interests, moreso than about any other major publisher. Granted, I'd be more than happy to be proven wrong about this, and discover that every comic book publisher in the country is on this situation and has concrete plans to move over to an ISBN-13 system by the end of the year. But given the general short-sightedness of most comic publishers, I expect some serious problems to develop.