(This is abbreviated text from The Global Indie Author.)
International Standard Text Code
A new identifier is being developed called the International Standard Text Code (ISTC). This number is attached to the work itself and not to the publisher/format. The advantage of this number is that it allows for identical textual works published by different publishers or in different formats to be identified as a group. So if a library, for example, wanted to know who published a specific author’s work and in what formats, they only have to know one example of the work to find all the rest.
The ISTC also helps to differentiate between different works with the same title by the same author. For example, a playwright might first publish a play then expand that into a novel or a screenplay, and oftentimes the same title is used so as to benefit from the reputation of the original.
ISTC numbers are currently dispensed by many of the same agencies who currently dispense ISBNs: Bowker and its affiliate sites, Nielsen Book in the UK and New Zealand, Cercle de la Librairie-Electre in Paris, and MVB Marketing-und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH in Frankfurt. Which agency you apply for an ISTC is irrelevant as there are no territorial restrictions on ISTCs.
The ISTC is still in its infancy but the self-published author may benefit from its use if you create derivative works or you publish under multiple entities. The ISTC is also a solution to the problem of publishing without an ISBN to sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble but then publishing to Apple and Sony with a vanity publisher or aggregator’s ISBN: an interested party who searches for your work using the ISTC will find all formats as opposed to only those where the ISBN is in use.
ONIX for Books
ONIX for Books is a metadata language that publishers use when distributing electronic information about a book to anyone involved in the production, review or sale of books. ONIX code is basic HTML with specific tags to identify such things as the author and other contributors, the publisher, book format, publication date, availability, price, rights information, BISAC categories, and so on. It can also include such things as biographical data on the contributors, website and email contacts for the publisher and contributors, the book’s synopsis, review quotes and links to their sources. And of course the book’s ISBN.
The ONIX code “travels” with the ISBN to the various distributors and retail channels around the world. Each retailer then decides which fields of the ONIX code they wish to display to their customers. They will all make use of the basic data such as the title, publisher, and author, then pick and choose from among the optional data.
This code can also be added to your website’s source code to optimize search engine relevancy rankings, crawling and indexing. It can also be incorporated as part of fan pages on social networking sites and book sites such as Goodreads.
When you upload your book to a direct-to-retail site such as Amazon, you are asked to fill out web forms that request information about you and your book. This information is translated into ONIX code and forms the backbone of the retailer’s search engine.
Similarly, when you input your book data into the Books in Print web form, the information is translated into ONIX code that is used by the database’s subscribers.
You will likely never have to learn ONIX code; it is only useful to know what it is and how it functions to disseminate information about your book to retailers around the world.