This week at the ECPA Executive Leadership Summit, Kelly Gallagher of Bowker reported that over a million ISBNs were produced in the last year.
I remember when the entire content of Books in Print was less than a million titles. That was 20 years ago.
Much of this is due to format proliferation, where the supply chain requires a separate ISBN for every format of a title, including digital formats. So the fact that an ISBN needs to be assigned to the Kindle format, and another ISBN to the Overdrive ePub file, and another ISBN to the Apple ePub file, and yet another ISBN to the PDF…yes, you can see how the ISBNs pile up.
And much of this is due to self-publishing – more people are publishing more books than ever before, because the barrier to entry in the book market has significantly gone done..
While many are ripping their hair out over metadata and identifier bloat in the supply chain – and yes, it IS worth ripping your hair out about – I would argue that a million ISBNs in the last year is a sign of something very very good. Something that many amazing people (Ramy Habeeb of Kotobarabia, Arthur Attwell of Electric Book Works, Pablo Francisco Arrieta) have been working towards.
A million ISBNs in the last year means that more books are available in more formats to more people than ever before.
It means that more books have the chance to get into more hands the world over than ever before in the history of books or hands.
And sure, a lot of these books are not going to last. Most of them, I’d say. But the point is, words and ideas have flooded the marketplace in an unprecedented way. We are living in an intensely creative time. And that is a cause for joy.
On a practical level…
How’re we going to manage all this joy?
Same way we manage everything else – with tools. We’ve got databases to handle metadata and identifiers. We’ve got XML tools to manage formats. We’ve got digital asset management systems to manage pictures and sound files and video files. We’ve got XML repositories and XML editors to manage words.
And with people. People who are passionate about (and creating order out of all this chaotic joy). People about ,a xhref="http://twitter.com/bsandusky">getting work discovered. People about – and people about . People who and . People who can by saying, ;
And people who can and begin to .
A million books created in a year – in the US alone! What a phenomenal achievement. And we are well-positioned to manage that joy into billions of hungry hands.