An interesting idea for using xISBN information


I was discussing xISBN and FRBR with my colleague and friend Felicia Berke, who made a great suggestion:

now the question is…can a patron place a hold for the entire cluster?
say, a child who has been assigned to read "to kill a mockingbird" and doesn't care which edition?

People, this is why we need to stop discriminating against people who don't have an MLS. (In fact, if you know someone who might want to talk to her about a library-school fellowship or a job, pass this link along!)

I explained that the current version of xISBN doesn't distinguish between To Kill a Mockingbird and Matar un ruisenor (the Spanish translation). For a good example, see DaveyP's mashup of my xISBN responder against Amazon.

Yes, there are several acceptable copies of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, but there are also a few copies of the Spanish version. And a more complete database would probably list the Braille edition, which may technically be in English but is probably encoded thoroughly enough to confound anyone who's only read Braille for the Sighted. (If your only exposure to Braille is through bookmarks that show the Braille for each letter of the English alphabet, keep in mind that "real" Braille shortens the physical length of the content with various rules.)

But her idea remains an important one. I'd love to see a web catalog that says "There are 281 people ahead of you in the line. We also have large print, unabridged CD, and abridged tape copies, as well as the Spanish translation. Would any of those suit your needs?"

In order to do this, however, we need more information about the related ISBNs. Perhaps a future version of xISBN will make it easier to do this. Maybe I just need to be querying a different service to find out what format, edition, and language a particular ISBN represents. Any suggestions?


  1. Actually, you can already currently do this in the NY Westchester County library system. When you place a hold you can request any copy available in the county and have it sent to your local library.

  2. xISBN is a tool and like any tool it has an intended purpose. The purpose was to group manifestations into works. I don’t agree with your conclusion, given your scenario, that you need more information from xISBN. You hint that maybe you need to be querying a different service and you are correct.

    Lets say that you are a library in France. The population you serve is mostly French readers. The library wants to have a link on their results list that says “Get me this resource”. The OPAC queries xISBN to get the related works. It then, queries its *own catalog* for the ISBN’s returned by xISBN. Once it retrieves the records from its catalog, it can determine what formats, editions and languages are available and present that information to the patron.

    If xISBN returned 10 ISBN’s, but your library only had three resources, would you want to present a patron with resources that your library couldn’t lend? In addition, just because the population you are serving is mostly French readers, doesn’t mean that you should select the French language edition for the patron. What happens when 1) your patrons are multilingual, or 2) the patron you are serving is an immigrant where French is a second language. When using xISBN you should “thing globally (xISBN service) and act locally (your catalog)” to serve the needs of your patrons.

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