Book Identification - ISBN Barcode Assignment

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and the related ISBN barcode are used to identify books all around the world. Publishers can easily communicate with retailers, wholesalers, libraries, and online marketplaces thanks to this standard ISBN used for books.

An ISBN is a unique identification number for books and book-related products. The 13-digit ISBN number is used to identify a title and format. To manage inventory and book sales, retailers and distributors rely on standardized ISBN identification. ISBN barcodes are essential for printed books if you wish to sell them online or in a traditional brick-and-mortar store.

The Anatomy of an ISBN Barcode

Most retail products in the United States are labeled with a UPC symbol. The European Article Number (EAN) is the comparable barcode symbol used in all countries other than the United States and Canada. Every EAN starts with a two or three-digit prefix that denotes the country of origin. EANs for French enterprises, for example, may begin with the prefix 34; Japan's prefix is 49. Since the book business produces so many items, it has been recognized as a country in its own right and currently has two of its own EAN prefixes. The two prefixes are 978 and 979. These two prefixes represent Bookland, the fantastical kingdom from which all books originate.

A Bookland EAN code begins with the prefix 978 or 979 and is found on books and book-related products all around the world. Since it allows the encoding of ISBNs (the numbers used by publishers to identify their books), the Bookland symbol is the preferred barcode in the book industry. As an ISBN is unique to a single title (or product), the Bookland EAN symbol linked with it is a title-specific signal that can only be found in that title. Three unique ISBN Bookland EAN barcodes are required if a publication is offered in hardcover, softcover, and as an e-book.

The ISBN barcodes on books are comprised of a title’s ISBN and associated price. It is important to understand that every title and format requires a unique ISBN. The pricing barcode add-on displays the US price of a book. In many cases, when a price is not yet determined at the time of print, a barcode add-on of "90000" is used to denote "no price in barcode". ISBN barcodes are not necessary for ebooks since they are not physically scanned. All ISBN assignments and title data are uploaded to the Global Books in Print database.

The add-on barcode in the ISBN Bookland EAN Barcode also contains US pricing information. The 5-digit barcode contains the pricing details and adheres to established encoding standards. A 5 is added to the left of the four-digit figure (without a decimal point) for values less than $99.00. Written pricing is also required to be included by many US shops and states.

Partnership with US ISBN Agency

Every country has an organization that administers these numbers and the U.S. ISBN Agency is run by Bowker. Publisher Services is a division of Bar Code Graphics, Inc. which specializes exclusively in the book industry. Publisher Services assists small publishers and provides ISBN and ISBN barcodes. Today, Publisher Services is now the largest authorized agent and provides the majority of ISBN barcode assignments to self-publishers.