ISEN Unfolds as the future ISBN for Catalogs & Databases…07.30.08

30 07 2008

The Catablog blog posted the following today about the upcoming intention of creating ISBN-like numbers for catalogs and databases:

“The Internet Search Environment Number (ISEN) intends to catalog catalogs and other databases.

You know how the ISBN is assigned to books. Over 1 million books are assigned ISBNs each year. What ISEN plans to do is emulate that system for databases. We would assign over 1 million databases ISEN or Internet Search Environment Numbers once the system is in place in its first year. There may be as many as 5 million in the backlog for cataloging by a social nework of librarians. Life Science databases would be cataloged by life science librarians, law resources by law librarians, etc… 

Then we would create a database of databases or search engine only for databases. Your hit list would only be databases instead of PDF files, blog postings and random HTML files. We pull out the databases. The hits you get would be the interface to databases which provides access to upwards of 500 to 650 times the amount of information available on the ‘surface web’ indexed by the major search engines. ISEN reveals the what is called the ‘deep web’.

They have a weblog and mailing list.”

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3 responses

30 07 2008
Andy Weissberg

While the concept of ISEN numbers should be considered as a valid solution, it should be noted that the ISBN continues to be the de-facto, ISO-approved identifier that is leveraged by the book publishing industry to uniquely identify book products throughout the entire global supply chain.

The ISBN continues to serve as an appropriate identifier to be used by the industry for digital book products and is commonplace within bibliographic database catalogues. In-depth, intelligently created meta-data records for books often incorporate field-level data, such as product descriptions, will help guide users to the respective content assets they seek. A new ONIX 3.0 record format which includes, URL parameters, as well as new BISG guidelines for web-cataloging and database retrieval will further optimze discoverability of book products at the title level, versus within a “parent database” access level as ISEN proposes.

Major retailers, e-tailers, search engines, library catalogues and web sites, BooksInPrint (used by thousands of librarians) and others, incorporate the ISBN within their database records and discoverability channels. Search for a book by title, author, ISBN, etc. on Google and the search results, including and not limited to, will incorporate the ISBN number as the default identifier within product description pages and even within a URL string in most cases.

Within the library market, identifiers like the OCLC number are catalogued on an interoperable basis with ISBN numbers.

This blog posting makes reference to the ISEN serving the cataloging needs of “vertical market databases” such as “Life Sciences. In addition to the ISBN which serves the identification of books, e-books and book like products, there are other identifiers such as the digital object identifier (DOI) and DOI handle system which are leveraged by the life sciences industry to catalogue and optimize the discoverability of book content, journal articles and other information via persistent linking. There are also other development-stage identifiers like the International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) which would provide intelligent linkages between content creators and the works they author or publish.

A truly “deep web” would enable complete identifier interoperability, whereby in concert with detailed meta-data structures, ISENs, DOIs, ISNI and ISBNs can be recognized as conduit identifiers that optimize discoverability on any and all web-based channels for those intending to find mongraphic works.

For over 35 years, the ISBN has served as a global, ISO-approved standard throughout the publishing supply chain. To contemplate and assume that a new identifier like ISEN would systematically supercede the ISBN as a true primary discoverability conduit in the library community and within databases would be a challenging assumption at best. I’d be happy to explore this with ISEN in greater detail to fully optimize these identifier efforts.

30 07 2008
Matthew Theobald

Matthew Theobald left this comment in the “contact” section (17:19:02)

Thanks for the publicity on ISEN.
I’ve been called a Lone Wolf before.
But I’ve seen a documentary that once removed from their pack, though it is an arduous journey, they can start a new pack and lead extremely rewarding lives.

All the Best.

2 08 2008
Matthew Theobald


That photo is not me.
That is not my domain.
That is my comment in the contact section.

ISEN will work with DOI and hopes to fit in as complement to existing documentation standards.


Just drop me a note at
Happy to talk freely about our plans.

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