I'm writing this tutorial because the ones available online are fairly poor and incomplete, and so you can avoid the terrible customer service at the Canadian ISBN office.
ISBN’s are free in Canada, greatly reducing the costs for independents and small presses who are operating in this country. We're lucky here, because in several other countries the process of getting an ISBN and the maintenance of databases has been privatized. That has led to the cost of a single ISBN being as high as $150 USD or more depending on the process you use. There's more good news for Canadians, in that we can get free ISBN's for anything, including a CD, DVD, paperback book or any other object that can benefit from an ISBN.
eBooks are a very new thing to the Canadian ISBN system, however, so there are a couple extra hoops to jump through and I’ll cover that.
I’m walking you through the whole process so you don’t have to speak to the impatient, irritable lady in charge of the whole ISBN support department in Canada. Yes, according to her she’s the only one answering emails, taking phone calls and answering questions. She doesn’t like answering questions and it seems that I was causing her incredible grief just by being on the phone with her. Maybe she’s under a lot of strain, being the only woman in charge. There’s a WARNING at the end of this article that you may want to read before taking the steps below.
Back to the heart of the matter, getting your own ISBN!
Step 1: Head on over to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html
Step 2: Click “Join CISS” (CISS stands for Canadian ISBN Service System)
Step 3: Click Yes – I Accept (Unless you disagree with the conditions on that page)
Step 4: Fill in the publisher registration information. If you’re an independent in Canada, you’re still considered a publisher, so you’re in the right place.
Step 5: Click SUBMIT and follow the instructions on the following page. There’s nothing complicated there. You’ll eventually be asked to wait for an email from the administration.
Step 6: You should receive that approval email on a workday (Mon-Fri). If you get an email telling you that your account wasn’t approved, read it carefully for a reason and either re-apply (if you chose a publisher name that was already in the system, or filled in the form incorrectly, for example), or give the number in the Email a call if there is a more complicated problem. [The current number is 1-866-578-7777 (Select 1+7+3), and God help you.]
Step 7: After you receive the Email with your ISBN prefix and publisher name (keep that Email forever!!) head on back to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html and login using your new username and password.
Step 8: Edit your profile if there’s anything you need to alter.
Step 9: Click on MANAGE LOGBOOK (Left hand panel)
Step 10: Click ASSIGN NEW ISBN
Step 11: Fill in the form according to the particulars of your product.
Step 12: Send a copy of the product to Library and Archives Canada. The current address is on the site, I won’t post it here just in case it changes.
EBOOK SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS
There are special instructions for eBook publishers, I verified these with the Government rep on the phone, step by step, even though she was impatient and rude during the entire process.
Step 1: For eBooks the Product Form is [Electronic Book Text]. The term EBOOK is not in this site’s vocabulary yet, but I was told via Email and on the phone that “Electronic Book Text means eBook”)
Step 2: You skip [Product Form Details] entirely, don’t change it.
Step 4: Enter in the [Title] [Subtitle] [Subject] [Publisher Name] normally.
Step 5: For [Projected Publication Date] enter the date you expect your work to be published OR the date it was published.
Step 6: I was told I didn’t have to fill in [Publication Date] but I did anyway because the website insists. I suggest you fill that field in, otherwise the site will probably reject the form.
Step 7: Set [Publication Status] to [Active]
Step 8: Leave [Number of Pages] at 0, since eBook pages are different from one reader device to the next. (The rep on the phone told me 0 is the correct setting for eBooks as well).
Step 9: Leave the Replacement ISBN Information section empty if this is the only ISBN you’ll be using for the eBook. If you’re using this ISBN to replace another, please email the administration through the form at the top of the page. I’m not going to make any assumptions regarding that option.
Step 10: Fill the [Contributor Information] in normally. If you’re the author, select [By (author)] and fill in your name. Skip the rest of that contributor form unless you have to add other contributors by clicking the [ADD] button.
Step 11: Select the language the book is written in under [Language Information].
Step 12: Under [Rights Information] leave it set to FOR SALE WITH EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS IN SPECIFIED COUNTRIES and select [Canada]. According to the representative, only the Publisher sees this setting, and it has no impact on international use of your ISBN. I asked more than once, which she found really irritating.
Step 13: Skip the entire section called [Supplier Information]. (The rep was insistent that I didn’t change or enter anything into that section).
Step 14: You should get a message telling you that you’ve successfully created an ISBN for your eBook. Click on [Manage Logbook] to see it listed on your account. You’re not actually finished, however.
Library and Archives Canada requires a copy of your work. This is the trade off for us getting ISBN’s for free. Here’s how it’s done:
Step 1: Visit: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/electroniccollection/003008-1000-e.html
Step 2: Click on: [Deposit online publications to the E-Collection]
Step 3: Click on: [Registration] and follow instructions.
Step 4: Visit: http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/electroniccollection/deposit/index.php?fuseaction=login.loginform and log in to your account.
Step 5: Fill in the form using the ISBN you just acquired for your book. (Remove any spaces or dashes from the ISBN, leaving only numbers).
Step 6: Match the [Date of Creation] field in so it matches the information from the ISBN.
Step 7: For [Publication Type] select Monograph for any prose book, including fiction. I was assured that this was the only choice for prose, even though the word “Monograph” means "treatise on a single subject," or “A scholarly piece of writing of essay or book length on a specific, often limited subject,” According to Dictionary.com.
Step 8: For [Access Type] make sure you select RESTRICTED if you plan on selling, or controlling who has access to your eBook. If you select OPEN, anyone in the world will be able to access the file you upload and download it as they wish for free. Even if you plan on offering your eBook for free, I highly recommend you choose to RESTRICT your work so you can offer your work where you want, how you want, instead of leaving it open on this site.
Step 9: Click [Submit].
Step 10: Wait for the download to finish.
When the download finishes you’ve fulfilled your obligation to provide Library and Archives Canada with a copy of your work. Your work is done!
WARNING: Make sure you get everything right with your file submission the first time. You cannot change the file you submit. Altering any of the options involving your submission requires an email to the organization. The people in charge of the E-Submissions seem much more professional and expedient, thankfully.
A special note to the Canadian Government regarding the ISBN and Library Archives Canada
Dear Canadian Government officials and administrators,
Dealing with your system and the representative was the worst experience I’ve had since I first published my work in 2004. Never have I encountered a more reluctant, foul tempered customer service representative who was not only poorly informed about publishing, but not in any way helpful. I learned nothing useful from speaking to the representative, and barely had the opportunity to verify important information because of the representative's power tripping and impatience. Some of the information she provided actually led to a failure in filling out the online form, even after I warned her that she was telling me to skip more than one required field.
As for the website and important forms used to apply for an ISBN, they use incorrect legal language, are terribly out of date, and (in the case of the Electronic Collection site), lacks critical tools required to manipulate, update and restrict access to materials. This will cost citizens and business partners, time, money and cause further legal issues.
My advice to anyone who uses these “tools” is to be very careful. Everything seems very simple, but one wrong turn can cost you thousands of dollars or many, many hours. Having said that, I need to remind everyone that all the instructions here were created using information I managed to obtain from the Library and Archives Canada website and the dismissive customer service representative.
Good luck with your publication! I hope this tutorial was helpful.
[Now back to our regularly scheduled programming: An update on Spinward Fringe Broadcast 6! Tune in tomorrow!]