Frequently Asked Questions about ISTCs

What are the benefits of an ISTC?

If you are publishing your book in several formats (hardcover, paperback, e-book), the ISTC will act as a linking code to group all editions of your work. Online retailers and library catalogs will be able to easily present all available formats to potential buyers and borrowers. ISTC will allow publishers to compile sales and royalty figures efficiently on a title basis rather than on a product (ISBN) level.

The ISTC also serves to link an original work with its various derivative works (abridged versions, foreign language editions, 2nd editions). Buyers will be able to follow the links to check for the latest edition or one in the desired language.

I have ISBNs, why do I need an ISTC?

ISBNs are product identifiers—one is needed for each product form (hardcover, paperback, e-book) so customers and suppliers know exactly what product they are ordering. An ISTC identifies the textual content in the product. One ISTC may apply to many products (ISBNs) as long as the content remains the same. An ISTC will allow buyers and librarians to search for your work by title across all product forms, increasing the likelihood that they will find available products.

Where can I see my ISTCs?

The International ISTC Agency maintains a central, searchable ISTC Database of all ISTC assignments to date at: Works may be searched by Title, Author, or ISTC. For example, search on “Red Badge of Courage” to display the original and derived texts associated with this classic title.

What is the history of the ISTC?

The International ISTC Agency was founded in 2008 and the ISTC was published as an ISO standard (ISO 21047) in March 2009. Bowker has been an ISTC Registration Agency since January 2009.

How is a “work” defined by the ISTC standard and what is considered a derivative work? How does this differ from FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records)?

A work is much like an “expression” in FRBR. An ISTC is assigned to a specific text and the derivation types that have been defined are similar to new expressions. See definitions below:

Definition from the ISTC Users Manual

textual work / work – a distinct, abstract intellectual or artistic creation predominantly comprising a combination of words, whose existence is revealed (i.e. “published”) or intended to be revealed, through one or more textual manifestations. This requirement for there to be at least an intention to publish means that draft versions of a work should not be registered in addition to the fully developed version(s) which are published or submitted for publication.


The ISTC standard provides for the following derivation types:

  • Abridged
  • Annotated
  • Compilation
  • Critical
  • Excerpt
  • Expurgated
  • Non-text material added or revised
  • Revised
  • Translated
  • Adaptation
  • Unspecified

Is an ISBN required for ISTC assignment?

An ISBN or ISSN is not required to assign an ISTC to a work. The registration system looks at the combination of title, subtitle, authors, edition information, etc. to determine if the work has already been registered or can be assigned a new ISTC. This allows authors and publishers to register works created before the existence of the ISBN system. Authors should note, however, the ISTC is not a product identifier and will not replace the need for the ISBN in the current book supply chain.

Who can register an ISTC?

Seven types of registrants are allowed:

  • Author: a creator of all or part of the content of the work being registered
  • Creator of derived work: a creator of all or part of a work derived from the work being registered: used when a creator of a derived work registers the original work from which it is derived
  • Agent: a person or organization (other than a collective rights society) that acts on behalf of a creator
  • Publisher
  • Collective rights society
  • Library
  • ISTC Registration Agency

In cases where the party registering an ISTC is not the publisher, how does the ISTC get propagated?
The ISTC is in the very early stages of being propagated into the supply chain. All registrations made at Bowker are being recorded in the Books In Print database and will be made available to our data customers in the future. All registrations worldwide are searchable on the international database and discussions are underway to make that data more widely available through a web service. Authors and agents who register works should present their ISTCs to the publishers to use.