Monday, July 12, 2004
"Comics Do Not Have Research Value"
If you are a publisher and you wish to publish a comic book here in the Philippines, it is preferable that you acquire an ISBN for stand alone comic books and an ISSN for serial comic books. An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a special number assigned to a single publication, like a book. This will facilite cataloging, inventory, and sales. If you wish to sell your book abroad for instance, an ISBN is essential if you wish to be carried by places like Amazon or Barnes and Noble. This ISBN is a simplified way of identifying your book and its exact edition. It is encouraged that all publishers use it, and in fact in certain countries, it is required by law.
In the Philippines, the local ISBN Agency is the National Library along Kalaw Avenue. If you try to apply for an ISBN, you will be in for the shock of your life. You will be told that comics are not allowed to have ISBNs or ISSNs because comics do not have "research value". They will not give it ISBNs because comics are not "books". Asked why comic books like Pugad Baboy have ISBNs, you will be informed that it was a "mistake". They will tell you that they based their policy on the International ISBN Agency's ISBN User's Manual published in Berlin, Germany.
This is based on the experience of several of my friends who have published their graphic novels and were denied ISBNs by the National Library. Some of them were eventually given their ISBNs, but with GREAT difficulty.
Incensed by this baffling series of events, I tried to learn all that is to learn about ISBNs from its history, to this "User's Manual" that National Library employees gleefully point to as their source of guidelines. I even wrote to the International ISBN Agency in Berlin to find out just what this is all about.
And what have I learned? It turns out the National Library people's assertions and policies are a whole load of HORSESHIT.
The Director of the International ISBN Agency himself, Dr. Hartmut Walravens wrote me back with the following reply:
You are quite right - ISBN is a technical identification tool without
any connection to the contents of publications. So if they are
monographs they are eligible for ISBN.
We will pass your message on to the Manila ISBN Agency, and I hope
everything will be all right!
So the assertion of the National Library that ISBNs are not given to comic books because it has no "research value" is baseless. Their opinion, no matter how uneducated and unlightened it may be, does not have any bearing whether a publication is given an ISBN or not. Indeed, they are in NO position to deny ISBNs to any publication. All that matters is for them to follow the guideliness (if they even bothered to read them, and if they did, understand themn correctly) faithfully and decide what numbers to give, be they ISBNs or ISSNs.
The term "book" or "monographs" in the context of ISBNs, according to the manual, is meant to mean "publication" of limited, definite length. This includes pamphlets, maps, transparencies, books on cassettesm or CDs, CD Roms with text contents, Internet Publications and so on.
So their assertion that comics cannot be given ISBNs because they're not "BOOKS" is so simpleminded that it's mind boggling.
It's terriby frustrating when you encounter people so uneducated to be in power and in charge of something important for the county such as the dissemination of information and preservation of culture. For anyone in their position to believe that comics have no "research value" is insulting and dangerous. Their lack of respect for this material bodes ill for the preservation of a true artform.
Some with the power and the brains needs to fire these people immediately before its too late.
I did not vote for Fernando Poe Jr., but times like this I wish he had won. It would benefit Philippine Komiks greatly. It's no secret that FPJ was a huge supporter of comics and the people who worked in it. He was friends with lots of comic book artists and writers and he would often hold parties in his home with comic book people as his guests. I heard he recently returned bound comic books to writer Pablo S. Gomez which had been given to him by the writer because he was concerned about damaging them, preferring to have photocopies instead. That simple act tells me that this is a man that has a huge respect for comics and considers them worthy of preservation.
Posted by Gerry Alanguilan at 7/12/2004 08:26:00 PM