What Is An ISBN Number?

images_005Just so you will know, I wrote this piece back in 2012, and I’m using this again. Look at all of the books in the picture and then wonder about their ISBN numbers. What are they, Where did they come from? What do these number represent? Let’s find out.

Have you noticed a group of numbers on all books? They are there for a purpose: for you, the writer and the publisher. This number establishes and identifies one book title from another. Booksellers, libraries, universities, and a whole lot more of people in the publishing arena use these specific numbers.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, which used to be a ten digit number until 2007, when the numbers increased to thirteen. Let’s take a look at the old “10” number and the new “13” number. Grab yourself a book from your shelf or go to the library or a bookstore.  The ISBN number is found on the inside of the book where the information on the publisher, copyright, all rights reserved exist and again on the outside of the back cover.

The first digit gives the origin of publishing – 0 – equals English, while another number equals a different country. The next six numbers identifies the publisher and the next two numbers identified the title or edition. The last digit validates the ISBN number. There you have the 10 digit ISBN.

In the 13 digit ISBN number, you will find this in the same area inside the book and on the back cover. The only addition is a three digit number instead of a zero. This three digit number will have 978 numbers represent a group or country.

However, if you go through the traditional publishing avenue, your publisher will do this for you with their publisher numbers. If you self-publish, go e-book, you will need to do your own work, but some independent publishers will handle this for you. However, you need to know if your book is published hardback, paperback, e-book, etc., each will have their own ISBN number even though it is the same title, but a different type of publication. Once you use an ISBN number, you cannot use it again.

You might also want to have a bar code, which is a requirement for many sales publications.

What do you do if you have some 10-digit ISBN numbers and need them in the new 13-digit? Go to Google on how to convert from a 10 to a 13. Another avenue is RR Bowker. Once you have your ISBN numbers, you need to let RR Bowker know and submit your title information, and register with RR Bowker.

Okay, lots of information, but have some fun. Go through your books and study the ISBN numbers. Your book “A” published by XXX publishing, and study the numbers. Then your book “B” published by XXX publishing and this has different publisher identifier numbers. What? Check again. XXX publishing may have different entities.

Have fun. Study. Learn. Enjoy. Do not forget to write. This is what will get your book finished.

Happy Writing.