As more content gets digitized – as more books get digitized and made searchable, and book metadata refers to many, many kinds of products – it’s necessary to use other identifiers to help organize all that information and make it find-able. The ISBN only goes so far – it unambiguously identifies an edition of a book. But in an increasingly networked book world, we need to identify many other things as well. What if we want to talk about, search, and work with all the ISBNs of a book at once? What if we want to search for movie scripts, poems, and other things that will never have ISBNs?
This is why the ISTC was invented.
The ISTC identifies “textual works” regardless of how they are published. Some examples:
It looks like this: 0A32009012445C9B
So how is this different from ISBNs? Well, ISBNs identify specific editions -trade paperback, mass market paperback, hardcover, large print, ePub, PDF. ISTCs identify the text itself, regardless of format.
A useful picture can be found here: How ISTC Works
And here is a list of things the ISTC is not for:
These are called derived works, and they each get their own ISTC. Why, you ask?
Well, the ISTC is not a work identifier. It’s a text identifier. The manifestations (editions) must each have the identical text string to get an ISTC. Thus, translations, abridgements, etc. have separate ISTCs from the original text.
So how does it work in real life? Let’s use “New Moon” by Stephenie Meyer as an example. The movie script gets a separate ISTC from the novel – because they contain different words, different texts. (The hardcover, paperback, and ebook editions all have the same ISTC, because they are identical in text.) And the Spanish-language version, “Luna Nueva”, gets a separate ISTC, because its text, its words, are different.
For those who know how I feel about identifiers, metadata, discoverability, and standards…it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.
All of which is to say, #ISBNhour on Twitter will go regular again.