The Power of the ISBN back on February 11!
For the record, the information in that post was accurate at the time it was written. But the subsequent changes in less than three months shows just how fast the publishing industry is morphing.
Barnes & Noble no longer requires ISBNs for e-books published through PubIt!, their indie e-book branch. They are now emulating Amazon and using an internal cataloguing system.
On the other hand, Smashwords only requires an ISBN (whether you purchase one of theirs or provide your own) if you want your e-book included in their premium catalog. The premium catalog is how Smashwords distributes to Apple, Sony, etc.
Furthermore, I've yet to find any penalty to a producer or a retailer for failing to use an ISBN. If someone has knowledge to the contrary, please say so in the comments section.
It makes sense for retailers to not need an ISBN if they're selling directly to the consumer. The whole purpose of the ISBN and its matching bar code was to make tracking distribution and sales through multiple outlets easier, but it was relatively expensive if you're not a Big 6 publisher. For the most part, the wholesale distributor has been cut out of the new e-book sales model. Smashwords is one of the few exceptions, but only because Apple is desperately clinging to the old model. (Which frankly makes no sense to me. There are ways to scan content before loading a file into their sale area if they're that paranoid about viruses, trojans, worms, etc.)
So we're to the point where you only need an ISBN if you go through the equivalent of a wholesale distributor (whether electronic or print). Personally, I think that's wonderful because it saves me some dough and keeps costs down for my readers.
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