On Tuesday, June 6, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) reported that the first ISBNs with a 979 prefix are likely to be assigned in the second quarter of 2008. BISG made the announcement based on a statement by the International ISBN Agency, which, for the first time, included a date for the appearance of 979-prefixed ISBNs.
Although the ISBN Agency announcement did not specify the country where the first 979 prefixes will be assigned, BISG said, "The news is important for everyone in the book trade." To date, 13-digit ISBNs have been prefixed by 978, which allowed systems to contain both 10- and 13-digit ISBNs for all books. "Once the 979 prefixes are introduced, there can be no 10-digit equivalents for 13-digit ISBNs as this might lead to duplication of numbers and confusion in the supply chain," said BISG. "It is therefore essential that book trade and library systems now become entirely prepared to process the full 13-digit identifier."
Michael Healy, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group, added, "[This] marks a decisive point in the transition to ISBN-13, which was to be completed on January 1 of this year, and makes it critical that all systems are now configured to handle the full 13-digit ISBN."
BISG noted that the International ISBN Agency will also be changing country prefixes and publisher prefixes "in the 979-prefixed range of numbers as the system is modified to reduce wasted numbers. National prefixes will be introduced rather than the language-based group prefixes on which the system was initially based."
More information about the ISBN-13 transition can be obtained from the U.S. ISBN Agency by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting the Book Industry Study Group's ISBN-13 website at www.bisg.org/isbn-13/index.html. Information for booksellers can also be found on ABA's trade website BookWeb.org