David Aldridge went to the BIC Building a Better Business seminar at the London Book Fair last week. Here’s what he found out.


There seems to be a push at the moment on one of those international standard identifiers that ought to be making everyone’s metadata more accurate (and in theory should make our lives easier), but which inevitably requires a certain breadth of adoption in order to get the required momentum.

What are they?

International Standard Name Identifiers are just what they sound like, with a few subtleties. Broadly speaking, they identify the public personae for a person or organisation involved in the production of creative works.

Typically, we’re talking about authors, illustrators, musicians, etc, but ISNIs extend to include organisations such as publishers, or imprints, or even fictional characters.

They look like this: 0000 0001 2103 2683

What are they good for?

Their primary purpose is to unambiguously identify a person or organisation. There are two key issues for publishers that they help with.

  • Distinguishing between people who have the same name. There are 38 different John Johnsons listed on the ISNI website
  • Identifying people known by different names in different cultures. There are 295 different spellings for William Shakespeare on the ISNI website: ウィリアム・シェイクスピア, for example.

If you’ve had the experience of one of your authors being confused with a different person on Amazon, then you’ve suffered from the problems that ISNIs are intended to solve.

Who assigns them?

The ISNI International Authority.

How should I be using them?

Authors who have published before are fairly likely to have an ISNI already assigned to them. You can look them up from the ISNI website, and enter them into Consonance. They will then be included in ONIX feeds, and we’ll add a link to the contact’s page to take you to the ISNI entry.

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