During the nineteeth century there developed in the U.K. and the U.S. pioneering efforts to systemize and cumulate the catalogs of publishers' output, to the benefit of booksellers, wholesalers and librarians. The current manifestations of this development are to be found in "Whitaker's Books in Print" in the U.K., R. R. Bowker's "Books in Print" in the U.S. and Bowker's "Global Books in Print on Disc" which combines the world's top six English-language book databases on a monthly CD-ROM disc--an international bibliography which not only profiles all titles currently in print in the English-language market, but also links each of them with their publisher.
The work that led to these great current bibliographies of English-language publishing was based at least partly on the premise that maintaining a smooth flow of accurate information about the various aspects of the publishing industry helps to keep this industry healthy. The development of and adherence to standards has always been crucial to creating and maintaining this flow of information. This statement was true for the Amherst College librarian Melvil Dewey. It was also true for David Whitaker and Emery Koltay when they introduced and implemented what is probably the most important standard of all, the ISBN.
What would the modern computerized publishing industry look like if we did not have the ISBN to identify each iteration of the titles actively in circulation? This question becomes even more significant when you place it in the perspective of 50,000 new products each year - which is the (rather amazing) output of the U.S. publishing industry over the last few years. This characteristic of the publishing industry, that each new title, new edition, new binding, is treated as a separate new product is one of the major obstacles to unique and meaningful product data transmission within the publishing industry. It is also one of the major reasons that we must set up standards such as the ISBN and the SAN for our systems and comply with them.
We at the Bowker agencies take standards very seriously, and we are very happy that you are visiting our web site. We hope that we have provided the information that you need to understand and participate in the ISBN and SAN systems. Let us hear from you.