May 2, 2016

More metadata, please!


The venerable ISBN—which has been in use since 1970—has a (relatively) new companion in the surprisingly populated stables of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The ISNI or International Standard Name Identifier, was introduced by the ISO in 2012, but this year, Laura Dawson, previously of Bowker (the United States ISBN registry), opened up, an international ISNI registry operated by her consultancy, Numerical Gurus. While the ISO has previously certified standard identification numbers for books, recordings, music, performances, magazines, and “objects” (see the fascinating Wikipedia article on the DOI), the ISNI (rhymes with Disney) is the first metadata standard designed to identify individuals. As in, people. You know who has one? Socrates. And over eight million other people, according to the ISNI’s website.

So, what exactly does an ISNI do? Pretty much the same thing that an ISBN does for books, which is to say that it allows artists, researchers and authors with a relatively common name (John Smith or Jane Doe) to more easily disambiguate themselves in the vast marketplace of ideas. In the words of the ISNI itself, it hopes to be “a bridge identifier across multiple domains and…a critical component in Linked Data and Semantic Web applications.”

So what are you waiting for? IDs are only $25 bucks! And they offer bulk rates! Go get one! Make up a pseudonym, and then get one for that pseudonym! Support international standardization/the new world order!


Simon Reichley is the rights and operations manager at Melville House.