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ISBN vs. LCCN

I recently embarked on the journey of securing both an ISBN and an LCCN for the Kranz Library Press Edition of our Gutenberg Bible facsimile. Little did I know, navigating the application process for these essential identifiers would lead me into a fascinating catch-22 scenario. Join me as I share my insights and experiences, shedding light on the intricacies of ISBNs and LCCNs, from their definitions to the historical context and the application process.



What are ISBNs and LCCNs?


An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) serves as a unique commercial identifier for books. Publishers, like Gutenberg Publishers, obtain ISBNs to assign to each distinct edition and variation of a publication. For example, the 13-digit ISBN for the Kranz Library Press Edition of the Gutenberg Bible is 978-1-7367678-0-1. This unique identifier aids in establishing and identifying a specific title or edition, proving crucial for effective marketing by booksellers, libraries, universities, and more.


On the other hand, the Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) works in tandem with the ISBN but is not mandatory for book publication. LCCNs, essential for books potentially acquired by the Library of Congress, involve the assignment of a Preassigned Control Number (PCN) before a catalog record is established. While the LCCN remains pending during a 2-6 week processing period, it adds a valuable layer of recognition for works in the library system.


Navigating the Catch-22


My journey revealed a catch-22 in the application process. The Bowker | Identifier Service, handling ISBN registration, demanded the LCCN on the application, while the Library PrePub Book Link, facilitating the LCCN application, required the ISBN. To circumvent this, my recommendation is to start by applying for the ISBN first, leaving the LCCN field blank initially. Later, return to update the information and apply for the LCCN with the ISBN in hand.


Tips and Tricks


I discovered that purchasing ISBNs in bulk proves more cost-effective than acquiring them individually, especially considering the multiple editions common in book publishing (e.g., hardcover, softback, large print, digital publication). For our Library Press Edition, we opted for both an ISBN and an LCCN, while other editions, like custom-bound sets, may not necessitate these identifiers.


Future Ventures


As we embark on this bibliophilic journey, envisioning not only the Library Press Edition but also a beautiful full linen-bound edition and a traditional medieval-bound edition, reminiscent of the Lost Gutenbergs, we remain committed to the art of book publishing.


In the intricate world of book publishing, obtaining ISBNs and LCCNs is a nuanced process that requires strategic planning and a bit of finesse. From understanding the distinct roles of ISBNs and LCCNs to navigating the catch-22 situations that may arise during the application process, this article provides valuable insights for bookbinders, book restorers, book collectors, booksellers, and anyone enamored with the enchanting realm of books. As you embark on your own publishing journey, armed with these tips and tricks, may your bibliophilic endeavors be as rewarding as the timeless tales within the pages of a well-identified and cataloged book.


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