Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Clickable ISBNs: Who Owns the Clickability?

We have been supporting clickable ISBN's for just over a month. And we now have a rather rich example of the potential of this enhancement. The Bookseller (central source of industry information for publishers and booksellers in the UK) are using Exact Editions to make their substantial bi-annual Supplements available through the web. The main (adult) title has 8,943 ISBNs in it which are all now live links (I can promise you that they all work and I have clicked every single one ;-)). The children's books Supplement has 1,767 (yep they all work too).

Here is a typical page with 16 jackets, 16 corresponding live links for the ISBNs, and as it happens some live phone numbers, which is very handy if you want to order some of the books and need to get in touch with Prestel or Macmillan distribution straight off the page. Clicking on the link at the top left of the array (the title is Bob Dylan: the Drawn Blank Series) takes you straight to a page of Google search results on the ISBN.

Google do a pretty good job on searching for ISBN's (as one would expect). But there are lots of ISBN resolvers that the page could link to: Amazon, Waterstones, OCLC's WorldCat.

This is a promotional service for the Bookseller, so they get to determine to which service the ISBN linker will target. This is after all an open and free service where we know nothing about the users, do not track their sessions, and know nothing of their identity. But we are also offering this linking service for our paid subscribers, for publications to which they subscribe. Looking at usability from the customers point of view, it seems appropriate that deciding the preferred ISBN resolver should form part of the user's preferences on her individual account. The user should be able to select the ISBN-resolver that will be most useful to them. So, in our view the Publisher owns the choice for default clickability (and the Bookseller may wish to develop its own business model to exploit this service with individual ISBNs getting different treatment, they will certainly get some very useful aggregate stats), but the individual subscriber who is paying for a service should be able to choose his own bookshop/library.

When it comes to owning the 'relationship' it seems to us that publishers can and should own the default, and different magazines/publishers may have different choices, but customers should own and control the over-ride. The final say is always with the customer. Does that seem like the right policy?

Although this application of the Exact Editions system adds value for magazine publishers and subscribers, it will probably be of even greater interest to book publishers. Many book publishers offer their catalogues on line as PDFs, but the Exact Editions system is faster, more searchable and better with links which have an obvious application in e-commerce.

Searching is fast:

Penguin 84
Bloomsbury 67
Quercus 43


Alain Pierrot said...

It might be a good idea to add links to the Library Thing resolver for the British Library or Talis?

Adam Hodgkin said...

Good suggestion, and there may also be some interest in TheLibrarything itself as an ISBN resolver. That gets us straight into the book's social network. There are really a very great many different potential aspects to this. So we will probably have to make this user configurable at some point (libraries will surely want to point to their own collections and use the ISBN to do that).