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ISMN vs ISBN

Engaged ,
Nov 05, 2022 Nov 05, 2022

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Dear all,

this may not directly belong to the InDesign forum but I have not found a dedicated publishers forum that may answer my quandary (if you know one, please direct me there!)

Since I will soon upgrade my publications from digital only to digital and print, I am inquiring about ISMN and ISBN. The music engraving community is discordant on their utility but, most of all, on their cost. Here in Italy the ISMN costs up to EUR 5,00 each, while in Romania, Portugal, and the USA, they seem free to obtain from the respective National Libraries.

Do you know if there is a general and legal way of obtaining them for free? 

What is your general opinion on them? If you publish, or work in publishing, do you use them? 

A distributor from the UK refused to distribute my scores if they have the ISMN instead of the ISBN. I found that strange...

Thank you for your input.

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Community Expert ,
Nov 05, 2022 Nov 05, 2022

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They need to be purchased and registered. 

Some publishers/printers might have access to some barcodes as you buy in bulk.

But typically - the ISBN submission anyway has to have certain criteria and information submitted about the publication. 

 

You can find an agency here - some countries allow 1 off purchases.

https://www.isbn-international.org/agencies

 

But try talk to some printers/publishers of books who might be able to help you out. 

 

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Community Expert ,
Nov 05, 2022 Nov 05, 2022

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First, I am utterly unsurprised that you haven't been able to find a worthwhile publishing forum. The topic does not seem to attract... a useful participant base. Enough said.

 

(Complete side thought: a publishing-focused forum would be a good addition here, but I'm afraid that like most it would quickly get overrun by novices and amateurs with insoluable issues.)

 

I don't know much about ISBNs other than from a US-centric approach. Typically, you have to buy one (or its equivalent) from the country of publication and copyright registration. In the US, nearly all ISBNs are handled by Bowker, a private company. Single numbers are available; blocks of 10 and 50 and so forth are available at significant discounts.

 

You pretty much have to have an ISBN to sell outside a limited vendor like Amazon.

 

You can get free ISBNs from some publishing vendors, including Amazon and Ingram, but those numbers can only be used for copies sold through that vendor. That is, you can't get a free Amazon/KDP ISBN and use it to sell copies you have printed elsewhere, or on Ingram, or on iBooks, etc. It can get confusing when the same book has multiple ISBNs from different printer/distributors.

 

I don't know what ISMNs are; I've never heard of them. I'd bet that the UK vendor is in the mainstream when preferring the more universal ISBN, which can be applied to anything that's much like a printed book, regardless of content or niche.

 

Hope that provides some clarity. Any further questions?

 


| Word & InDesign to Kindle & EPUB: a Pro Guide (Amazon)

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Engaged ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Thanks James!

ISMN stands for International Standard Music Number and is a branch of ISBN that was created to manage specifically music publications (but not books on music... ahah!, just scores & some other things). 

I have bought 10 codes to get started but I found ridiculous that I have to use two different codes for the printed and for the digital version. Also ... "one has to ..." but so many publications just don't have ISBN/ISMN and no one seems to have persecuted them ... 

Ingram is indeed the distributor that refused the ISMN. Sadly, I need to see how this goes before investing in the more expensive ISBN (in Italy they charge you a "program participation fee" in addition to the codes). Also, their trim size is pretty small so impractical for music (A4 and Letter is the maximum).

 

@Eugene Tyson mentioned barcodes: I think that, once I have the ISMN number, I can create one myself in InDesign, since they charge 13 EUR to create a barcode ... maybe I should offer that as a service! Sounds profitable!

 

My next steps are to get the proof from the printer—I'm going for Print-on-Demand because I have no storage facility nor I want to use the infamous Italian postage system—then set up the web-store to handle international purchases and shipping. It will take a lot of care, especially for VAT handling. 

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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You can't create an isbn barcode in InDesign.

 

But there are free online generators. 

 

 

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Engaged ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Uh? Why not? What is preventing it?

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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You can buy an InDesign Barcode Extension plug-in from the Creative Cloud exchange for USD $29.95 (https://exchange.adobe.com/apps/cc/106094) and I also found one for free with your CC subscription but I'm not sure of all the features on this one: https://exchange.adobe.com/apps/cc/899/ean-barcode-generator.

 

As @Eugene Tyson mentions, there are some free online generators. Try the one from the wonderful folks at Bookow, but I highly recommend making a PayPal donation for use of their tool, which is easy to do from their site after you generate the barcode.

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Why pay for it when you can get it for free.

 

https://the-burtons.xyz/barcode-generator/

 

 

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Free is great, but also note the request of the-burtons, which I believe is a proper thing to do. 

 

“Making this hugely popular barcode generator freely available consumes a rapidly increasing amount of resources at the owner's expense. If you think this tool is worthy of a donation then please consider making a small contribution to support its availability.”

 

I also don't see the capability to add in the price on the barcode from that source?

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Always donate to shareware when it's of value to you. But no, the occasional ISBN barcode is not worth buying an app or plugin for.

 

It's not usually good practice to put the price on the barcode, either. Put the price on the rear upper corner if you must, with alternate pricing for other currencies, but embedding it in the ISBN barcode is for mass, one-shot publication more than small presses or PoD.

 


| Word & InDesign to Kindle & EPUB: a Pro Guide (Amazon)

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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I always thought of it as a mark of “professionalism” to add the price in the barcode, in terms of the book being more traditionally published. But it is optional for self-publishing, and most people don't add it for various reasons. However, if there is a chance that a store will not take your book because they require a list price to be encoded into the barcode, you'll miss that potential sale.

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Styles and policies change, but the majority of commercially published books on my shelf from the last 10 years rarely have the price encoded. That tends to be only for the big-chain sellers, and most small publishers don't get sales in bulk to them anyway.

 

I don't see it as a mark of professionalism; it's done as the mass-publication equivalent of shelf price marking, lot by lot (big lots), for the convenience of big sellers. Which, more and more, are irrelevant in the face of sales through Amazon and other online portals.

 

No argument either way, I just have a different perspective.

 


| Word & InDesign to Kindle & EPUB: a Pro Guide (Amazon)

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Sure, no argument from me at all. This is certainly an option and not set in stone. I tend to lean toward the “just in case” side of things, though. You can generate the barcode without an amount if you want, but the format still has the EAN-5 area. I see the free generator at the-burtons site didn't have that option. According to Bowker:

 

The EAN-5 (a 5-digit add-on to the barcode that encodes the retail price of the publication) can be a null number [90000], but large retailers (such as Barnes and Noble) require the use of EAN-5 bar code on books they handle. Scanners in American bookstores cannot read the Bookland EAN code without the corresponding 5-digit add-on. Publishers who don’t comply with this requirement may be penalized.

 

IngramSpark requires a barcode on their POD books because some are ordered by retail stores. They will add a barcode on your cover file with the EAN-5 if you don't place one. Their instructions say you must have a back cover barcode but I had a case where they added it themselves using the null number.

 

Years ago, an author I worked with who self-published and printed copies in Hong Kong got an opportunity to sell his books at his local Costco because he knew someone who worked there. He brought in several cartons of books but they were rejected because there was no ISBN barcode on the back cover. He offered to print some stickers and attach them so they said fine. However, Costco failed to tell him they needed the EAN-5 for their scanners. He had to reprint the stickers and do them all again! Live and learn...

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Engaged ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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yes, since Ingram wants you to set a MSRP before selling, I guess then that price ends up in the barcode.

I would like to add that myself. How can I create a barcode for the ISMN that also contains this extra code? 

Would you add the MSRP on the back cover as well? Few musical editions do that.

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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I've donated and always donate for these types of services. 

Apologies, when I say free, I mean it's not worth buying plugins/individual software for a one off. 

 

So by free, I mean by all means, donate when you can. But it's a better option and less expensive than buying something you only use once. 

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Engaged ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Hi Eugene, 

the tool you suggested is only creating ISMN with 10 digits, which are no longer in use. 

I will try some other tool.

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Hi @Inélsòre, in addition to the other good information you have already, I'm wondering what your exact format and content is going to be? Audio books are supported by ISBN, but that doesn't extend to a musical score. In looking through my Bowker account, this page https://www.myidentifiers.com/faq/eligibility-chart lists types of publications that are and are not supported with ISBN. 

 

Digital customized publications: No, unless a publisher's internal assignment is necessary for back office systems, such as finance or inventory control.

 

Sheet music: No, sheet music does not get ISBNs. The ISMN is the appropriate standard for sheet music, which doesn't have any binding. ISBNs are assigned to books of printed music.

 

I've issued countless ISBNs, but never for a musical score by itself. Maybe if you assembled the scores into a book format with other narrative text? ISBN lets you select up to two genres, with one being required, and MUSIC is a category, but I think this is meant to be topical.

 

According to the ISMN Users' Manual (2016), the following are not to be given ISMNs:
• books on music except when they contain examples of notated music
• stand-alone sound or video recordings (including recordings available on
computer media)
• periodicals and series as a whole, as distinct from individual volumes in series

 

As James mentioned, there are not any truly free ISBNs. I do not recommend using the print-on-demand-type publishers' “free” ISBNs, since they will then own publisher-name rights to your publication. If you purchase your ISBNs directly through Bowker or an agent, you can create any custom imprint name you like. Be sure you are prepared with all the details of your publication before you issue any identifiers. Also, I've had clients outside the US experience problems setting up individual Bowker accounts, but do try. Hope this is all helpful!

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Engaged ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Thank you JEL

My publications are books made up of a preface, a sheet music full score, and critical end-notes. Then as many inserts as the number of parts are added to the publication. If this is an EPUB they will be all together, otherwise they will be on separately stapled papers.

The music publishers I work with as an engraver all use ISMN for their publications, so I believe I am on the right track here. I have contacted the Italian ISMN agency and purchased my first 10 codes from them. Next step is 100 codes, but they only give 10 to begin with anyway, and thus the investment is significantly higher. 

I am just in the dawning days of this process, it's both exciting and scary, but I'm sure mistakes will be the best teachers! 

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Ah, makes sense, @Inélsòre, and I was still composing my response while you had already explained some of this in another reply post. It is certainly a learning experience! And congratulations on getting your publications underway. Please let us know if we can offer any other help or insights.

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Engaged ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Thank you, very kind of you! I should be able to complete the upgrade of the InDesign file in the next 2-3 days. I will upload it to Publish Online and let you have a look for feedback! 

What worries me the most is managing the order, payment, shipping part: the printer should handle printing, packaging, and shipping, but I have to delve into the e-commerce side. I currently use Gumroad for my digital editions and while they support physical products sales, their system is not optimised for that. I will need to upgrade my website to get e-commerce capabilities, then configure each product in the proper way. Any suggestion here from those of you who have already done something similar is very welcome!

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Direct fulfillment is... a chore. Even back when it was easier (more books sold that way, more buyers willing to order and wait, cheaper shipping, less complicated shipping rules and rate structures, etc.) it was a chore. Now it's a real headache.

 

Go with POD/digital fulfullment as you can.

 


| Word & InDesign to Kindle & EPUB: a Pro Guide (Amazon)

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Community Expert ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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Great, I'm happy to take a look when you have it ready. What platform is your website running on now? For the digital edition, you can use Squarespace for setting up a simple ecommerce site, or the more complicated WordPress with WooCommerce and a payment gateway, like Stripe or PayPal. I've set up both of these types of sites, but there are plenty of out-of-the-box services (like Gumroad), so it depends on what you're familiar with and how customized you want to go.

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Engaged ,
Nov 06, 2022 Nov 06, 2022

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I already use Gumroad as my main selling platform for everything digital. They are great because they take care of everything in the payment process, from VAT to invoicing to customers. 

I plan to start offering physical products through Gumroad as well but there are two big downsides: 

1) often people buy more than one score and Gumroad doesn't support having a single shipping price for the whole cart. Every product will add its shipping price. Only option so far is to have a discount on shipping multiple copies of the same item. 

2) Gumroad just recently added the "cart" option, before you needed to buy once per product. So I will need to write in the product description that, if they want different product, they should write to me to get a quote with shipping included, pay to me, and then I would ask the PoD dealer to go through it. 

In any case shops and dealers would be suggested to contact me as I would offer a dedicated discount on that.

 

My current website is on Wordpress.com, but I plan to migrate it to Wordpress.org as it seems to offer more flexibility. Or can I just have a store page on Wordpress.com without any plug-in and just manage it there if I have a paid plan? I would like to keep as much control over my sales as possible, as a physical sheet music store would. The WooCommerce and Shopify plugins look nice, but I wonder if there is something that doesn't require a plug-in. 

The issue with PayPal is that it is most used in the US and being my business based in Italy, the PayPal fee is just wild, going to up to 10% of the price with the order of MSRP I am planning for my books. 

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