Book publishing. And everything else.

Archive for the tag “ISNI”


We had a great #ISBNhour last Friday on Twitter, but given the ephemeral nature of the Twitterverse, I figured I’d post here as well.

ORCID launched last week. The acronym stands for Open Researcher and Contributor ID, and it is primarily designed for scientists and researchers. At ISNI, we’ve received some questions regarding the compatibility of ORCID with ISNI. And there’s a very simple answer: They’re totally compatible. In fact, they are the same number.

ISNI has set aside a block of numbers for ORCID’s use. So registrants of ORCID automatically get an ISNI – it just depends on which label you decide to use for that number. (Rather like an EAN, in Bookland, is also an ISBN.)

The purpose of these identifiers is the same – to unambiguously identify a person of note. An ISNI is a “bridge” identifier – it has very little metadata associated with it, and its primary purpose is to link to proprietary identifiers to provide interoperability among systems.

So applicants to ORCID will, upon receiving their ID, be able to look themselves up on the ISNI website as well.

As soon as my web developers give me a new page on ISNI.org (don’t ask), I’ll post the official ISNI statement on ORCID.

In Paris

I am in Paris for an ISNI Board meeting. Except it’s not quite Paris – it’s just outside in Place de la Defense. I am at the Hilton (cue Paris Hilton jokes), directly across from two shopping malls.

This area is dedicated to commerce. It’s all glass and concrete. This is the view from my hotel room window.


And here are some shots of the neighborhood:






The point of pride here is this square arch:


Around the bend is a sculpture of a ginormous thumb, which I can’t help but feel is a monument to swiping your iPhone:


On the Open Web…

…anyone can be a public figure.

We have a potential for 7 billion public figures.

It’s Not Just ISBNs Anymore: ISNI

The ISNI is a newly-ratified standard – ISNI stands for International Standard Name Identifier. It’s 16 digits – 15 numbers and a check digit (which could be an X).

It looks something like this:

ISNI 1244 5677 8198 0239

Here’s what it’s for: Names.

Yeah, seriously. It’s for assigning to names of people – specifically, public identities. So an author, a singer, a company name (as companies are public identities too), or fictional characters. The ISNI identifies Madonna (not Madonna Louise Ciccone), Random House, or Sherlock Holmes.

At this point, you are probably shaking your head and muttering, “Why????” And, of course, there is an answer!

Sometimes two authors have the same name. Thomas Wolfe, who wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again”, is a different person from Tom Wolfe, who wrote “Bonfire of the Vanities”. Or one author has multiple ways of spelling his or her public identity – Fyodor Dostoevsky is the same person as Fedor Dostoievski.

The identification of these names – distinguishing them or assuring us that they are indeed the same person – helps a lot when you have so many books from so many countries flooding the market.

The obvious next question is, what about pseudonyms or aliases?

Here’s where you’ll be annoyed – they get separate ISNIs. That’s right, Ruth Rendell and Barbara Vine are separate public identities. As are Stephen King and Richard Bachmann. Or David Johansen and Buster Poindexter!

Once again, the identifiers don’t establish the relationship among these names. They just identify the fact that there are different names. The metadata for each identifier refers to the other name (and ISNI for that name if it’s a public identity) and describes the relationship between them.

So how does this all help get more books into the hands of more people? Basically, in search results. When website databases use ISNIs, they can cleanly distinguish the books of authors with the same name who are truly different people (and not have to rely on middle initials or other unreliable text differentiators). They can show customers all the books of a particular author whose name gets spelled in different ways (really important for authors whose names are not in the Latin alphabet!). And it keeps the books of authors with pseudonyms distinct and separate – maybe Ruth Rendell never intended any of us to know that she was also Barbara Vine.

All of this means that people find the exact books they are looking for. It keeps readers – book-seekers – happy.

More info about ISNIs is here.

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