Comic Index Discussion

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I started a thread on GCD-Chat discussing the possibility of having an unique comic index that could be used industry wide. This page is an attempt to capture some data from that thread and it does pull in comments from multiple authors in the original thread

It is understood that the GCD's list of desired enhancements is already long and it's resources are limited so this may not happen for a long time, if ever, and that it would be a major undertaking

Concept

The intent would be to have a standard identifier that could be used to uniquely identify a specific physical comic book which would include differentiating between multiple variants and printings.

There is no single identifier standard, today, for comic books. ISBNs are used for some trade paperbacks, original graphic novels and specials. ISSNs are used to identify some series but do not identify specific issues (generally the ISSN is used in conjunction with a publication date). UPC codes and even Diamond order codes are not unique for issues when considering issue variants.

There are many uses for an identifier like this, the primarily one to be able to uniquely identify a comic book for cases when the "common" title has been reused which has become very prevalent in recent years due to many series restarts. It would also allow aggregation of information from multiple sources (eg: like web 2.0 mash-ups) to pull together information from indexes, reviews, stores and circulation data (eg: The Comic Chronicles).

Services like Google's product search perform an example mash-up like this for books via the ISBN to aggregate price information for comparison shopping and to pull review information from multiple sources.

GCD Opportunity

As the largest online database and the only one with the stated goal of indexing all comics from around the world, I feel that the GCD is uniquely positioned to provide the leadership for a global comic identifier. Having this in place would solidify GCD's status as the primary comic source of data and info. The increased visibility may also help to further GCD's goal of indexing all comics by providing an additional impetus to add information to the system.

The GCD is already planning on adding other identifiers (eg: ISBN) to its system in the new schema which would aid in providing translations between the various identifiers already used.

GCD Challenges

  • While large the GCD doesn't yet have entires (or even placeholders) for all printed comic books.
  • The need and effort to create web-apis to facilitate lookups.
  • The lack of staff to maintain a system like this on an ongoing basis.

Encoding Options

  • The GCD has a database key that identifies a series or a specific issue. eg: JLA: Earth 2 Series ID=25691, Issue ID=365232
  • Jeffdavidlowe wrote: "We could actually have a system similar to IP addressing that could id a whole subgroup by the first x numbers, ie 123.xxx... Would represent marvel or somesuch. Each dot could seperate a subgroup, is, {publisher}.{series}.{extra}.{issue} the benefit of this is that a parser could be written to autogenerate this but access to a lookup table and the data in each entry and then append a new column in the database. "
    • Ray wrote: Just like the National Archives sets the EAD standard for archival work, like the Library of Congress sets the library indexing system standard, so could the GCD do the same for comic books.

Notes

  • Diamond started requiring all products it carries to have UPC codes in 2008 (ref)
  • Stamp collectors in the US primarily use the Scott Number published by the Scott catalog to uniquely identify stamps, many of the issues associated with stamps would be common with comics (wikipedia)
  • ISBN - (wikipedia) ISBN is primarily used for books and hence is used on many comic book trade paperbooks, original graphic novels and some specials. However it is not applicable to standard periodicals like most regular comic books.
  • ISSN - (wikipedia) ISSN is used to identify a specific periodical publication and is used by some comic book publishers. To uniquely track a specific issue, you'd normally need to specify both an ISSN and a publication date (comics fans are oriented to issue numbers, which are also prevalent in journals, but most newsstand periodicals use dates for tracking instead).
  • UPC Codes - Comic Book UPC DB appears to be a new project to capture UPC codes for comic books
  • Lionel English wrote:
    • Comics use the UPC-A code often with the UPC-5 code as a supplement. I'm fairly certain, without doing the research again, that the UPC is used on magazines similar to the way ISSNs are--they're issued on a per title, rather than per issue basis. The "plus five" often encodes a publication month, but not a year, so it does not produce a unique per issue code. It is also likely to be phased out this decade in favor of EAN numbers, as noted in the article. But I strongly suspect this will still be a per title rather than per issue code.
    • It should be noted that use of ISSNs is inconsistent, and that they don't track periodicals of any kind at the issue level. In the book world, books are reorderable, and the ISBN provides a nice, standardized inventory number that can be used by standardized ordering programs. Periodicals typically are not reorderable. If you sell out of April's issue, you just order more of future issues; if you undersell then you cut future orders on that title. But future orders always pertain to future issues, you cannot, except in rare circumstances, re-order copies of current or back issues, because that's not how the periodical industry works. Therefore, there's little incentive in general to create per-issue tracking numbers for anyone in the serials business (any serials, not just comics).
    • It should also be noted that the publishing industry as a whole is much older than any of the standard numbering systems being used, and those standards are always evolving (albeit slowly). The old 10 digit ISBN is being replaced with 13 digit ISBNs (subsets of the EAN-13 standard). The 10 digit ISBNs were internationalized versions of the old SBNs, which in turn grew out of individual publishers internal catalog numbers. There are many comics (books and magazines) which pre-date these systems, and won't have these numbers. There are many small-press and indie titles which didn't see a need to use the numbers even when they did exist. And some of these numbering systems are reaching the ends of their life spans anyway--the UPC, as noted, is now a subset of the EAN-13 numbering system, and will eventually be replaced by it. And that system may, in turn, be replaced by GTINs.