ISBN’s have become a source of great annoyance to me over the past couple years. The primary reason for this is a misaprehension amongst quite a few people about their usefullness. The biggest issue in my library has been the idea that they are the perfect means of searching the catalog for duplicate items.
1) Different printings could have different numbers
2) Serial records don’t have them
3) Typos happen
4) The B in ISBN stands for book, other items don’t have them consistently.
5) Enforcement of each item gaining a unique number is somewhat lacking.
So I don’t exactly like the damn things, but they have become a necessary evil where electronic ordering is concerned. Then came the little problem today involving ISMN’s a variant of the standard for music. We were ordering a large batch of scores, only to discover that we were unable to purchase a number of them through our usual means because the ISMN’s had replaced the ISBN’s. Oh and just to throw out even more acronyms, both numbers are now interchangeable with EAN’s (the little numbers included with the bar code). And to make things worse aparently both ISBN’s and ISMN’s will be fighting over the 979 number range before too long so they’ll look indistinguishable from one another. A disaster waiting to happen.