About ISBN

What is an ISBN?

The word ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. An ISBN is a unique product number, which is allocated to a book. As each ISBN Number is only assigned once, you can easily find a publication by searching with the ISBN number. Each new edition of a book requires a separate ISBN. Each different form of a publication also requires a different ISBN Number, e.g. hardback, paperback, audio-book or E-book. The agency responsible for issuing ISBNs in the UK is the Nielson ISBN Agency (Link). Bowker Identifier Services (Link) is responsible for the United States and its territories.

What do the ISBN Numbers Mean?

For over thirty years the format of an ISBN number was a 10 digit number. In January 2007, the number of digits was increased to 13. All ISBN numbers should now be 13 digits long. You can convert ISBN 10s into ISBN 13s using an ISBN convertor. Here you find more information regarding ISBN convertor.

ISBN 978

Example of an ISBN in barcode form

The ISBN number is made up of 13 digits and it is divided into five parts:

Part 1: The Prefix Element
The first part of the ISBN is a three digit number, which has been issued by GS1. GS1 codes (insert link http://www.gs1uk.org/about-us/Pages/default.aspx) are an agency which issue bar codes.
Example: 978

Part 2: The Group Element
The second part of the ISBN identifies the country, geographical region or language area in which the book was published. The length of this varies and can be up to five digits long.
Example: 978-0

Part 3: Registrant Element
The third part of the ISBN identifies a particular publisher. The length of this part varies according to the productivity of the publisher and may contain up to 7 digits.
Example: 978-0-11

Part 4: Publication Element
The fourth part identifies a particular edition of a book. The length of this part varies and may contain up to 6 digits.
Example: 978-0-11-00022

Part 5: Check Digit
The fifth part is called the check digit. It is worked out using a modulus 10 algorithim.
Example: 978-0-11-00022-5

What are the Uses of an ISBN?

Publishers, booksellers, libraries and internet retailers use ISBN numbers to help with ordering, listing, and stock control. ISBN numbers are machine readable in the form of a 13 digit bar code, which helps to avoid mistakes. ISBN numbers are essential for running electronic point of sales systems in book shops. The ISBN number is used, instead of long bibliographic records, because it saves time and staff costs, and reduces the risk of copy errors.

What is the History of ISBN Numbers?


ISBN history since 1976, Imagesource: S_Hofschlaeger, pixelio.de

The ISBN Numbering system was introduced in the UK by J. Whitaker & Sons in 1967. In 1968, the Bowker agency was set up in the US to assign ISBN numbers in the United States. At the same time the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) set up a working group to look into adapting the ISBN for International use. The ISBN standard was approved by the International Organisation for Standardisation in 1970.

The original standard has been revised as books and other book-like content appeared in new forms of media, such as Audio-books and E-books. The basic structure of ISBN is still the same and it is still in use today in over 160 countries. ISBN agencies around the world are administered by the International ISBN Agency (Link), located in London. The national agency responsible for issuing ISBNs in the UK and Ireland is the Nielson Book Agency. Bowker Identifier Services is the only official source of ISBNs in the United States and its territories.

One Responseso far.

  1. Denis Holden sagt:

    I was just checking an ISBN on your site and I noticed a couple of typo’s.
    Easyer should be spelled easier and the last line on the page ‚You want make an ISBN.‘ This sentence needs a ‚to‘ in it.
    Hope this is helpful.
    May I put a link on my site to your site?

    Denis (Jack) Holden

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