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International Standard Book Number

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International Standard Book Number[edit]


The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) evolved from the Standard Book Number (SBN) that was previously used in some English speaking countries. An SBN is converted to an ISBN by prepending a digit '0'. It is a system of numerical identification for books, pamphlets, educational kits, microforms, CD-ROM and other digital and electronic publications. The numerical identification system of a book and book-related product is being used for global trade and finding. It is a unique identifier for books, specially intended to be used commercially. Since 1970, ISBN has been internationally recognised as the identification system for the publishing industry and book trade [1]. An ISBN accompanies a monographic publication from its production and onwards throughout the supply and distribution chain. Assigning a unique number to each published title, ISBN provides that title with its own, unduplicated, internationally recognized identifiers, Publishers, booksellers, libraries and others in the book industry use ISBN in order to expedite the handling and retrieval of publications with ease.

Advantages of using ISBN[edit]

The followings are the major advantages of ISBN [2]:

  • The ISBN is a unique international identifier for monographic publications; the ten-digit number, therefore, replaces the handling of long bibliographic descriptive records. Valuable time of staff are saved, copying mistakes are avoided.
  • The ISBN allows compilation and updating of book-trade directories, like Books in Print. Information on available books can be easily found.
  • Ordering and distribution of books are mainly executed by ISBN; quickly and efficiently which no other system can promise.
  • The ISBN is machine-readable in the form of a 13-digit Bookland/ISBN EAN bar code. This is not only faster, but also error free;
  • The ISBN is needed for the running of electronic point-of-sale systems in bookshops;
  • Rights management is mainly done on the basis of ISBN.
  • Sales data monitoring is done by ISBN.
  • Libraries profit from copy cataloguing by ISBN.
  • The national lending right in some countries is based on ISBN.

Structure of ISBN and Its Identifiers[edit]

It was earlier a 10-digit ISBN system (9 digits plus the check digit) with the capacity to assign 1 billion numbers. On the face of it, the number might seem like more than enough but in fact, the internal structure of the ISBN limits the available capacity of the system. Each edition and variation (except reprints) of a book receives its own ISBN. The number is either 10 or 13 (after 1 January 2007) digits long, and consists of four (10 digits) or five (13 digits) parts:

ISBN’s parts

10 digit Group Publisher Title Checkdigit 81 7515 766 0 13 digit EAN Group Publisher Title Checkdigit 978 81 7515 766 5 Fig.1.1 Representation of the ISBN parts[3]


EAN is a European Article Number (EAN) is a barcoding standard which is a superset of the original 12-digit Universal Product Code (UPC) system developed in North America. The EAN-13 barcode is defined by the Standards Organisation, Global Standard 1 (GS1). It is also called a Japanese Article Number (JAN) in Japan. UPC, EAN, and JAN numbers are collectively called Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN), though they can be expressed in different kinds of barcodes. The EAN-13 barcodes are used worldwide for marking retail goods. The symbol encodes 13 numerals divided into four parts: System Code 978,979 for ISBN and 977 for ISSN.

Group Identifier[edit]

The first part of the ISBN identifies a country, area or language area participating in the ISBN system. Some members form language areas (e.g. group number 3 = German language group) or regional units (e.g. South Pacific = group number 982). A group identifier may consist of up to 5 digits. Example: ISBN 90- ... All group identifiers are allocated by the International ISBN Agency in Berlin.

Publisher Identifier[edit]

The second part of the ISBN identifies a particular publisher within a group. The publisher identifier usually indicates the exact identification of the publishing house and its address. If publishers exhaust their initial contingent of title numbers, they may be allocated an additional publisher identifier. The publisher identifier may comprise up to seven digits. Publisher identifiers are assigned by the ISBN group agency responsible for the management of the ISBN system within the country, area, or language area where the publisher is officially based. Example: ISBN 90-70002-

Title Identifier[edit]

The third part of the ISBN identifies a specific edition of a publication of a specific publisher. A title identifier may consists of up to six digits. As an ISBN must always have ten digits, blank digits are represented by leading zeros. Example: ISBN 90-70002-04.

Check Digit[edit]

The check digit is the last digit of an ISBN. It is calculated on a modulus 11 with weights 10-2, using X in lieu of 10 where ten would occur as a check digit. This means that, each of the first nine digits of the ISBN – excluding the check digit itself – is multiplied by a number ranging from 10 to 2 and that the resulting sum of the products, plus the check digit, must be divisible by 11 without a remainder.

Calculation for Check Digits in ISBN[edit]

For 10 digits ISBN

The International ISBN Agency in its official manual categorically states that, the 10-digit ISBN check digit, which is the last digit of the 10 digit ISBN, is calculated on a modulus 11 with weights 10 to 2, using X instead of 10, where ten would occur as a check digit. This means that, each of the first nine digits of the 10-digit ISBN — excluding the check digit itself — is multiplied by a number in a sequence from 10 to 2 and that the resulting sum of the products, plus the check digit, must be divisible by 11 without a remainder.

By this method, the calculation for the 10-digit ISBN whose first nine digits are: 0-306-40615 would be done thus:

First Method[edit]

0×10+ 3×9 + 0×8+ 6×7 + 4×6 + 0×5 + 6×4 + 1×3 + 5×2
= 0 + 27+ 0 + 42+24+0+24+3+10
The next complete multiple of 11 is 12×11= 132; Now, 132-130 = 2 ; So the check digit is 2, and the complete sequence is ISBN 0-306-40615-2.

Second Method[edit]

A second method to find the check digit is by first multiplying each digit of the 10-digit ISBN by that digit's place in the number sequence from 1 to 9, with the leftmost digit being multiplied by 1, the next digit by 2, and so on. Next, take the sum of these multiplications and calculate the sum modulo 11, with "10" represented by the character "X". For example, to find the check digit for the 10-digit ISBN whose first nine digits are 0-306-40615 [2]


Now 145=13×11+2 So the check digit is 2, and the complete sequence is ISBN 0-306-40615-2.

For those more mathematically inclined, it should be noticed that, a 10-digit ISBN's check digit is "actually" computed via dot products. (1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) dot (x,x,x,x,x,x,x,x,x) mod 11 = check digit.

Check Digit in ISBN 13[edit]

The International ISBN Agency's Official 2005 Manual covering some ISBNs issued 01 January 2007, describes how the 13-digit ISBN check digit is calculated. Calculating an ISBN 13 check digit requires that each of the first twelve digits of the 13-digit ISBN — excluding the check digit itself — be multiplied alternately by 1 or 3. Next, take the sum modulo 10 of these products. This result is subtracted from 10. The result is the check digit. If the check digit calculates to 10, 0 is used.

For example, an ISBN-13 of 978-0-306-40615-__ is calculated

9×1 + 7×3 + 8×1+ 0×3 + 3×1 + 0×3 + 6×1 + 4×3 + 0×1 + 6×3 + 1×1 +5×3
= 9+21+8+0+ 3+0+6+12+0+18+1+15
= 93 Now, 93¸10 = 9 remainder 3, and 10 – 3 = 7; So the check digit is 7, and the complete sequence is ISBN 978-0-306-40615-7. An ISBN-13 of 978-0-356-42615-__ is calculated:

9×1 + 7×3 + 8×1 + 0×3 + 3×1 + 5×3 + 6×1 + 4×3 + 2×1 + 6×3 + 1×1 + 5×3
= 9 + 21 + 8 + 0 + 3 + 15 + 6 + 12 + 2 + 18 + 1 + 15
= 110, Now 110 ¸ 10 = 11 remainder 0 and 10 – 0 = 10; Report "0" for a result of 10; So the check digit is 0, and the complete sequence is ISBN 978-0-356-42615-0. Compared to ISBN-10, this check system is easier [3] .

ISBN-10 vs. 13 Digits[edit]

From January 1, 2007 the ISBN has changed from 10 digits to 13 digits. ISBN-13 is an exclusive ISBN which is used on books and book-related products after this date. Note: The letters ISBN always precede the number.

Example-1 Old 10-digit ISBN and barcode

The 10-digit ISBN with a barcode is shown below. The EAN barcode number, at the bottom of the machine-readable stripes, is different from the 10-digit ISBN, placed above the barcode.

Example-2 New 13-digit ISBN and barcode

In the 13-digit ISBN, the EAN product code "978" precedes the 10-digit ISBN and the check digit (or final number) is recalculated. The new ISBN is the same number as the EAN/UCC barcode number which appears at the bottom of the barcode with hyphens.

ISBN: Its Emerging Changes[edit]

The main reason for changing the ISBN was to increase the numbering capacity of the ISBN system. As a result of electronic publishing and other changes in the publishing industry, the numbering capacity of the ISBN system is being consumed at a much faster rate than was originally anticipated when the ISBN system was designed for printed books in the late 1960's[5]. In effect, the ISBN system would have run out of numbers in its current format. That wasn't going to happen tomorrow but it was a real concern for the future. We acted on a solution now, while the industry still had enough time to plan and budget for change, so that the ISBN system will remain viable far into the future [5]. The solution, simply put, is that the length of the ISBN number changes from 10 digits to 13 digits, effective 1 January 2007.

Factors of Changing[edit]

*To increase the numbering capacity of the ISBN system (owing to the increase of electronic publications and the resulting proliferation of editions and formats);
* To make the ISBN totally compatible with the EAN-13 used for other products and supply chains;
* To decide whether and how the ISBN is assigned to certain types of monographic publications (e.g. digital files; print-on-demand materials; discrete parts of monographic publications);
* To specify the authority to assign ISBN and the administration of the ISBN system[5].

Area of Changing
*Current ISBNs will be changed to 13 digits by being prefixed by 978 and the check digit recalculated accordingly[5];
*The resulting 13-digit number will be identical with the Book land/ISBN that is used with the EAN-13 barcode[5];
* As the current ranges of ISBN numbers are exhausted, ISBN blocks prefixed by 979 will be issued[5];
* ISBN prefixes issued after January 2007 will not necessarily be prefixed by 979[5];
* Publishers’ identifiers are not likely to remain the same for ISBNs under the 979 prefix. (For example, the current Thorpe-Bowker prefix of 1-86452 will become 978-1-86452. It is unlikely that Thorpe-Bowker will also receive the 979-1-86452 prefix.) [5];
* Barcodes will carry the 13-digit ISBN with hyphenation above the barcode and the same number in EAN-13 format (as a numerical string, without hyphens or spaces) below[5].

Publishers' Transition to ISBN-13: Some Key Points[edit]

Publishers should continue printing 10-digit ISBN on publications until December 31, 2006. Publishers should not use any 10-digit ISBN on publications as of January 1, 2007. All unassigned 10-digit ISBNs must be converted to 13 digit ISBNs as of that date. During the two year transition to the 13-digit ISBN (January 2005 to January 2007), publishers may choose to print the 13-digit version of the ISBN on the publications along with the required 10-digit ISBN. Make sure that all of your automated systems and those of your trading partners are ready to handle the 13-digit ISBN as of January 1, 2007. Publishers with large blocks of 10-digit ISBNs (i.e. over 100) are responsible for doing the conversion of unassigned ISBNs to the new 13-digit ISBN format. Publishers with a small block of 10-digit ISBNs (i.e. 10 numbers only), will receive 13-digit ISBNs beginning in January 1, 2007 [6] .

ISBN for Electronic Publications[edit]

The uses of ISBN are not only limited to the textual publication but also it is applicable for the electronic publications. Some of the important uses of ISBN in electronic publications are:

*Offline items, like floppy disks and CD-ROMs, are treated like any other publication;
*Online items may be completed and finalised publications, like a textbook on the Internet. In this case an ISBN would suffice;
*An online publication may be a bibliographic or fact database that is subject to change any second. This would be comparable to an encyclopedia or dictionary which is also constantly updated in other media, without each little amendment leading to a new edition or new ISBN. Only significant and/or structural changes (including title changes) would require new ISBNs;
*Linked material (e.g. hypertext) would only be considered covered by the same ISBN if the related material is actually part of the publication;
*If an online publication is available under different operating systems and/or command languages, each «edition» would require a separate ISBN [7].

Practical Uses of ISBN[edit]

ISBN in publishing houses is used for
*identifying firm publication projects from the manuscript to the printer;
* title identification in publishers' catalogues and advertisements;
*listing in printed directories, electronic directories and in Internet sites;
* stock control;
* copyright management;
* management of royalties;
* processing of orders;
* accounting and billing;
* monitoring sales data;
* producing statistics;
* handling of returns [8] .

Books in Print services, distribution centres, and wholesalers is used for
* building bibliographic databases for the book trade like Books in Print;
* building databases of titles in stock;
* ordering services based on electronic communication systems like EDI (electronic data interchange) or via the Internet;
* stock control ;
*monitoring internal logistic processes;
* accounting and billing;
* producing sales data
*returns administration;
* producing subject lists and catalogues [8].
Centralized service organisations for libraries (producing ready-to-borrow copies) is used for:
* ordering at the publishers or wholesalers;
* processing orders from libraries;
* stock control;
* monitoring internal logistic processes;
* accounting and billing;
* administration of rebinding processes [8] .
ISBN in bookshops is used for:
* bibliographic searches;
* tracing addresses;
* ordering and re-ordering processes based on electronic communication sys-tems like EDI (electronic data interchange) or via the Internet;
* stock administration;
* accounting and billing the end consumer;
* electronic point-of-sale system (EPOS) [8] .
ISBN in libraries is used for
* ordering;
* copy-cataloguing;
* lending statistics;
* national lending right;
* interlending;
* union catalogues[8].

Future Prediction of ISBN[edit]

ISBN number has changed from 10 to 13 digits; the system is likely to remain in its newly defined structure for many years to come. However, developers may be wise to bear in mind some additional possible scenarios likely to emerged relating to field lengths: Some organizations are taking an interest in a 14-digit GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) where the 13-digit ISBN is prefixed by an additional digit [8]. that can be used as a packaging level indicator by agreement between trading partners. The use of the Digital Object Identifier (DOI) or of Uniform Resource Names (URN) may become more widely adopted in parts of the industry supply chain; these are variable length identifiers that can accommodate ISBN.


[1] [Online] [27 January 2007]
[2] [Online] [27 January 2007]
[3] [Online] [27 January 2007]
[4] [Online] [27 January 2007]
[5] [Online] [27 January 2007]
[6] [Online] [27 January 2007]
[7] [Online] [27 January 2007]
[8] [Online] [27 January 2007]

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See also the Wikipedia article on:

External Links[edit]

  • Get Ready for the New ISBN!
  • ISBN-13 For Dummies

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