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Order out of chaos – Get ready for the ISTC

By May 25, 2011No Comments

Martine Poiree, Nielsen BookData’s National Manager, briefs PANZ members

A new way of linking published text, is starting to be introduced world-wide, and as an ISTC Registration Agency for New Zealand and Australia, we (Nielsen Book Services) will be responsible for the allocation of ISTCs for your publications.

ISTCs relate to the textual content of books, and it stands for International Standard Text Code. It is an ISO standard used to identify textual works independently of any specific publication or format. 

Before your eyes glaze over, let me give you an example of a situation where ISTC will create order out of chaos: let’s say a bookshop customer looks for a particular title on a bookselling web site, it would be extremely useful if the results popping up on the screen showed ALL the various manifestations of this book, including hardback, paperback, film tie-in, translation, audiobook abridged and unabridged, CDs or cassettes, large print, and of course eBook!

ISTCs will also be crucial in identifying all manifestations of the text that appears under a different title – think ‘Q & A’ and ‘Slumdog Millionaire’, or ‘The Cat’s Pyjamas’ and ‘Nga Kahumoe o te Ngeru’(Maori translation of The Cat’s Pyjamas), or books published with quite different titles for their UK and US editions, as illustrated by Clive Cussler’s ‘Mayday’ morphing into ‘The Mediterranean Caper’.

Even more potentially confusing, there are plenty of completely different books that have the same title, and this can lead to expensive mistakes for all concerned.

The key here is that in the near future one click of the mouse will present whoever is searching for one of your books with a professional-looking variety of choices, and perhaps encourage them to spend more money…. and the key to achieving this is the ISTC. This is going to become especially relevant with the proliferation of eBooks.

It is also going to make tracking sales for a particular author much simpler, and I am sure you as publishers will immediately see how beneficial this will be.

Intrigued? Well, you are going to see a lot more information on ISTCs coming out over the next few months, and here are a few points to remember for now:

–       ISBN is still the industry standard identifier for individual editions.

–       ISTCs will identify the content of a book, no matter the format. ISBNs identify the edition/format.

–       ISTCs are intended for use on computers and they will need their own field on databases, inventory systems, bookshop management systems and library catalogues.

–       Publishers can start applying for ISTCs for their publications provided they can record this data element on their systems

–       ISTCs will be allocated by local Registration Agencies.  ISTCs are allocated free of charge for new publications.

The process from a publisher’s point of view will be as follows:

–       As soon as you decide to go ahead with a new publication, including eBooks, you should contact us to obtain an ISTC.

–       We will allocate an ISTC to the textual content of this new publication and register it on the International ISTC database.

–       We will send you the ISTC for inclusion in your own database/system.

–       The ISTC becomes part of this particular title record. It must be included in the information you send on your data feed to Nielsen BookData for inclusion on our range of bibliographic services.

If you would like more information you are welcome to contact me, Ph: 06 856 6501 or 021 477 534, or

you could have a look at the International ISTC Agency web site at

Meantime, ‘keep calm and carry on’, and we will make sure you are kept informed!