I never thought I'd live to see the day that Bowker would fix Bowkerlink! Bowkerlink has long offered publishers an online interface for listing titles in Bowker's Books-in-Print, but it was painful! While the usability of software interfaces has something to do with the eye of the beholder, in my eyes, the old Bowkerlink was the worst interface I've ever been stuck dealing with. In fact, I made mistakes more than once due to the bizarre multi-page format and vague error messages that made it a guessing game as to whether or not changes were being saved. Now that I think about it, just getting to the old Bowkerlink login used to be a hassle unless you had it saved in favorites. It was a sort of a menu option on a kitchen sink template.
Well, I'm willing to give credit where it's due, and while I haven't entered a new title on the new-look Bowkerlink yet, I'm looking forward to it. For one thing, they've reduced the five or six data entry pages to a single page per title, and the on-screen instructions appear to be relevant. They even included a toll free number for tech support and an e-mail support address in the announcement they sent out, which is what led me to go and look. Well, first I had to find my username and password which took quite a while since I avoided visiting the old Bowkerlink at almost all costs. The truth is, I had figured they'd never bother updating it since as a monopoly agency, they don't have any competition in the US. Maybe somebody decided that doing a good job has it's own rewards.
One thing the visit to Bowkerlink reminded me of was that I actually burned through some ISBN numbers on ebooks. For me, that amounted to poor ISBN management because the current ebook selling platforms on the web are all able to deal with ebook versions of existing print books by inventing numbers for them, such as the Amazon ASIN, or simply using the same ISBN number as the paper book, like Powell's, but identifying the ebook as an "Electronic Book". On the bright side, even though I got as far as printing proof copies of my canceled self publishing blog book with an ISBN, I never entered it into the Bowkerlink system because I dreaded struggling with the interface and was procrastinating. So that book never appeared in Books in Print and I can still use the number for another title.
So, this is my day to say nice things about Bowker. I didn't see any signs on the new Bowkerlink of them pushing SAN's and other value-added propositions on publishers, who used to get quite confused over what was really necessary to publish a book. If their new approach to dealing with publishers turns out to include offering some new service, I'd now be willing to give it a look rather than ignoring it as usual.