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Topic: Missing ISBN

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Subject: Missing ISBN
Date Posted: 10/12/2008 2:38 AM ET
Member Since: 12/9/2007
Posts: 9,601
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I've put 3 versions of one book on my WL.  I was looking at them on my WL (because I like to be sure that books I've gotten don't still have other versions with different ISBN's on it).  I noticed that of the 3 versions - one actually doesn't have an ISBN!  There are 3 people on that book's WL.  None of the 3 are HC, they are all paperbacks.  This isn't a school library type book.  It's a book by Robin Hobb.  Do the PTB need to be told about this?  I can't quite figure out how this happened.  The 13 digit ISBN isn't there in a 13 digit number - it has 5 numbers - I think.  Very weird.


Date Posted: 10/12/2008 5:59 AM ET
Member Since: 7/18/2008
Posts: 1,051
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There are a lot in the system like that. I've been told it's from someone putting the book into the system before the ISBN was actually available for the book.

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 10/12/2008 8:46 AM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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On the other hand, I ordered a paperback book and got a hardcover...it the turns out the hardcover edition's ISBN is incorrectly listed as a paperback, so again if you search you will not find a hardcover edition of this book (by Melanie Rawn, who is relatively popular).

I do see what you're talking about quite a bit, since a number of the books on my wishlist are pre-ISBN.  I think sometimes people put the publisher's stock number in place of the ISBN.

Last Edited on: 10/12/08 3:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/12/2008 9:18 AM ET
Member Since: 7/31/2007
Posts: 2,695
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Actually that 5 digit number is a PBS assigned number due to a book being posted "Without an ISBN" and if I am correct placing it on your WL is a waste of space because a book will never be posted to that number.  That number is unique to one book along the way that was posted and will not be used again.

Matt, unless you've done extensive research on the book you can't say that PBS has it listed incorrectly...that book may have had a paperback version listed and it had the same ISBN so, it got posted on here first.  Verifying it only one or two other sites is not enough....


Date Posted: 10/12/2008 10:57 AM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2006
Posts: 2,303
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The only way that number is supposed to be used again is if that specific, individual book is reposted.

You enter into the system a book that is old and does not have a ISBN. Someone finds the book on your shelf and orders it. It comes and they read it, or decide they aren't interested after all... They can repost the book with the number already assigned by PBS.

They talk about the book in the forums. Three people decide they are interested and want the book. One orders it and 2 put it on their wish list. The one who orders it LOVES the book. She puts it on her keeper shelf and never posts it to her bookshelf. Because the other 2 people are wishing for that exact particular copy of the book, it never becomes available. In order to actually get the book, they would have to search out another copy in the system ... by title or author. (because the book doesn't HAVE an ISBN number, just a made up number assigned to that exact book by PBS)

... so there IS a chance that the person who actually has that book MIGHT decide to repost it and if you are first in line it would come to you... there is also a chance that when they decide to post it, they enter it as an old book that doesn't have an ISBN and the system (not knowing it is the same book they ordered above) gives it a new PBS assignation.

I periodically check my wishlist for books with "not real ISBN"s and search by title and author to see whether I can get one with a real ISBN.

I do have one book without an ISBN that is on someone's wish list. I have no way that I know of to find out who's WL it is on so that I can tell them the book is not ever coming to them because I am keeping it forever.

Date Posted: 10/12/2008 12:47 PM ET
Member Since: 8/26/2006
Posts: 9,343
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Great explanation!  And most people who have wishlisted a short ISBN book have also wishlisted other editions of that same title, so it doesn't cause many problems. 

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 10/12/2008 3:10 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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Matt, unless you've done extensive research on the book you can't say that PBS has it listed incorrectly

I know what you're saying, but in this case I believe I know what I am talking about.  This is for my DAW collection, and they follow very specific patterns that I have become quite familiar with in my quest to collect the entire 1,450+ book series.  There were only two versions released, a hardcover and MMPB, exactly one year apart, and they both have separate ISBN's...and as it happens I have first printings of both the hardcover and paperback.  The MMPB's ISBN comes up as an MMPB, and the hardcover comes up as just 'paperback.'  Sometimes with DAW that means there was a trade paperback, but for this title there wasn't one released, and in every other case I have seen the trade version also had its own assigned ISBN.

In any case it was only an example of what can be going on with ISBN's.

Last Edited on: 10/12/08 3:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 10/13/2008 3:20 PM ET
Member Since: 7/13/2005
Posts: 5,201
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The ISBN system was only started in the U.S. in 1970 so any book printed before that won't have one.  Some may have a Library of Congress number but that's not the same thing.

Date Posted: 10/13/2008 3:27 PM ET
Member Since: 8/23/2007
Posts: 26,510
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Publisher's aren't even required to use an ISBN. Many reuse them for completely different books. I have a couple books in my TBR where the ISBN's bring up a book by the same publisher but not the book I have.  So at some point the ISBN was recycled.  Why? Who knows. But I'll have to post mine w/o an ISBN. 

Matt C. (mattc) - ,
Date Posted: 10/13/2008 4:11 PM ET
Member Since: 8/13/2008
Posts: 3,849
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The ISBN system was only started in the U.S. in 1970 so any book printed before that won't have one

I collect a lot of vintage science fiction paperbacks...there were "SBN's" in the early '70's but it wasn't until 1980 or so they started using the system we have now.  Many of the early SBN's were 8-digits long, followed by three digits that indicated the cover price...it varied from publisher to publisher.  I think it's fascinating, but you'll go crazy trying to use those older numbers to get an ISBN match in the modern database.