Transition to ISBN-13 a Key Topic at BISG Annual Meeting

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On Friday, September 8, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) held its Annual Meeting of Members at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium in New York City. At the meeting, six Board members and committee Chairs presented both highlights from the past 12 months and goals for the coming year. Among the topics discussed, the most notable was the book industry's transition to ISBN-13.

Bob Bolick of McGraw Hill, chair of BISG's ISBN-13 Task Force, and Michael Healy, BISG's new executive director, raised concerns about the state of the book industry's preparation for the transition to the new 13-digit ISBN. Reminding attendees that by January 1, 2007, all ISBNs should contain 13 digits and that BISG strongly recommends that all industry participants be able to handle both 10-digit and 13-digit ISBNs during the transition period, Bolick stressed that getting it wrong could mean lost sales. Healy, who said that many in the industry are far behind in preparing for the new ISBN, echoed Bolick's concerns.

Bolick reminded attendees that there are numerous informational resources on the ISBN-13 transition that are available on BISG's web site, including an "ISBN-13 For Dummies Guide" (which Bolick said is currently being viewed six thousand times a month) and an ISBN-13 "webinar" that can be downloaded. In addition, BISG's ISBN-13 Readiness Directory, which has detailed information on the readiness plans of many industry participants -- including POS vendors -- is now being made freely accessible to everyone (previously, anyone wishing to view the readiness plans of other companies had to first complete a readiness survey for their own company.)

In other remarks, Healy said, "Our industry is at the beginning of a period of absolutely astonishing change," driven primarily by technology. "We will see the emergence of a new digital supply chain." He added that he intends to focus on initiatives that will bring more efficiency to the industry supply chain -- such as e-commerce -- and that he believes it is "right to learn from best practices elsewhere."

Outgoing BISG chair Joe Gonnella of Barnes & Noble spoke of the many challenges that BISG still has to meet. "We are defined not by what we have done but what we will do." Gonnella is succeeded by two co-chairs: Andrew Weber of Random House and Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks. --David Walker