Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Philippine National Library Refusing Comic Books ISBNs... AGAIN??

The Philippine National Library
Refusing Comic Books ISBNs... AGAIN?

In 2004, the Philippine National Library refused to give a stand-alone compilation album of Kenkoy comic strips an ISBN because they assert that comics do not have "research value", and that they refer to the ISBN User's Manual drafted in Berlin as their guide.

Incensed, I did research on my own, downloaded the ISBN User's Manual myself, and read carefully through the entire thing. Nowhere in there it is said that comic books should be denied ISBNs. In fact, the manual says that every publication, regardless of content, *should* be given an ISBN if it is a monograph, and an ISSN if it is a periodical.

For instance, something like the monthly Uncanny X-men strip should be given an ISSN, but if a set of X-men monthly issues are compiled into one complete book, it should be given an ISBN.

To strengthen my case, I got in touch with the International ISBN Agency of this problem, and the director at the time, Dr. Hartmut Walravens, replied:


Hi, Gerry!

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!


Hartmut Walravens


And now, two years later, the National Library is once again refusing to give stand alone comics ISBNs. I met one such cartoonist at the Komikon yesterday, telling me of his frustrations in getting an ISBN from the National Library, for the very same reasons they gave two years ago.

Will the Philippine National Library be ever bereft of people who do not understand what an ISBN is, and what its purpose is?

Why are they using the ISBN as a tool to approve or reject the legitimacy of any publication, when the ISBN has never and should never be used in such an inapproriate manner?

An ISBN is an IDENTIFICATION NUMBER, and nothing more. It's supposed to help the publisher, the retailer, and the libraries catalogue their inventories better. It SHOULD NEVER be denied to ANY publication.

If you are a comics publisher and you are running into this problem, please feel free to to use Dr. Hartmut Walraven's email to me, as well as the ISBN Manual which you can download here.

Additionally, you can get in touch with the International ISBN Agency here: