Metadata and ebooks

I’m thinking about the problem of linking one title and several ISBNs– this could be called, “the challenge of editions” and used to be limited to soft and hard cover versions of the same work. It was difficult enough for database managers to sort through the issues related to those two (2) possible deliverables; now, with ebooks, many publishers are assigning a separate ISBN for each channel through which the electronic book is sold. Yep, you read that correctly… one ISBN for Amazon, one for B&N, and so on. There is no standardization, publishers do what works for them. On the face one might think it’s not that big of a deal, but when it comes down to building data models designed to describe a particular work the real challenges begin. I’m speaking from the edge of my knowledge at this point, but realize that where there are multiple ISBNs, and multiple delivery channels, there will be at least one URL associated with each of those ISBNs and the expectation that a link will lead to the intended work. Perhaps an opportunity exists to allow for the delivery of pre-filtered data on behalf of those who wish to use raw metadata as a primary discovery tool– think libraries and their catalogs (OPAC). Records are brought into the system, loaded up, and used as a means to provide search capabilities for patrons. With the emergence of patron driven demand, there lies a potential to pre-filter incoming data and only provide those links to editions which the library is interested in presenting to its patrons. So, if a library uses Ebrary’s platform (available through ProQuest) the could receive bibliographic records for works they do not yet own, but carry the appropriate fulfillment link should a patron elect to click-through and request or acquire the title. There’s obviously a lot more to this, and probably as many different permutations of solutions as there are libraries, but this topic of multiple ISBNs being used as key identifiers for linking will be on my mind.

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