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International Standard Book Number

What is ISBN

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13 digit unique international publishers identification number which replaces the old bibliographic descriptive records. ISBN is a short machine readable identification number known throughout the world to mark any book unmistakably. It is machine readable in the form of 13digit i.e. Book Land EAN barcode which enables fast running of electronic point of sale systems in book shops.

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It mainly executes the ordering and distribution of books in a fast and efficient way. ISBN is an essential instrument in modern distribution and rationalization opportunities in the book trade and is an important factor in book market.

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was introduces to the world in 1972. In India it was put to operations in 1985 by the Raja Rammohan Roy National Agency for ISBN. Our country stands at serial number 56 in the alphabetic order of member countries of ISBN.

The book industry in India is a large complex consisting of the wide range of professionals like authors, editors, publishers, book sellers, distributors etc. Today India is among the top multilingual publishing country in the World. India is the 6th largest Book producing country and stands on the 3rd rank in producing books in English after UK and USA.

Structure Of ISBN

From January 2007 ISBN Consists of 13 digits preceded by the letter “ISBN”.

It consists of 5 parts

Prefix Element

Also know as the “Bookland identifier”. It indicates the industry. Usually 978 is used. It is also called the EAN ( European Article Number but now renamed as International Article Number but the abbreviation remains the same).

Title identifier

It identifies a particular title or edition of a title. It also identifies the format in which a title is published. Like a paperbacks and a hard cover will have different title numbers.

Publisher prefix

It identifies a specific publishers or an imprint. The publisher code is assigned by the national ISBN agency.

Group identifier

It identifies a nationality or language group of publishers. It is 1 to 5 digit number. 81 Stands for India. In general, the groups are 0–7, 80–94, 950–993, 9940–9989, and 99900–99999. Books published in rare languages typically have longer group identifiers.

Check Digit

It is a form of a redundancy check used for error detection. It is calculated using a modulus 10 algorithm. Each of the first 12 digits of the ISMN are alternately multiplied by 1 and 3. The check digit is equal to 10 minus the remainder resulting from dividing the sum of the weighted products of the first 12 digits by 10 with one exception. If this calculation results in an apparent check digit of 10, the check digit is taken as 0.

The ISBN always appear on the reverse of the title page and also on the outside back cover of the book. If a book has a dust jacket, the ISBN will also be printed on the back of the dust jacket. In case of audio tapes or CD’s the ISBN will appear on the packaging and /or inlay card.The ISBN normally appears in numeric and bar code format for point-of-sale scanners.

Advantages of ISBN


It is a unique international identifier for monographic publications. It has replaced the handling of long bibliographic descriptive records their by saving time and avoiding copying mistakes.


ISBN is machine readable through 13 digit EAN. UCC bar code which allows fast billing at POS terminals in book shops.


It allows easy compilation and updating of book trade directories and bibliographic database.


The ordering and distribution of books through ISBN has made the system fast and efficient.


Rights management has been easily done through ISBN.

ISBN for Electronic Publications

ISBN is also applicable to electronic publications. It is applicable for both online as well as offline contents. Offline items like floppy disks, CD ROM, DVD’s are all treated like any other publication and is subjected to an ISBN. For all online publications like text books on the internet an ISBN would suffice. An online publication may be a bibliographic or fact database which is subjected to change any second. It 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 ISBN. Only scientific and/or structural changes including title changes would require new ISBN. Hyperlinks or hypertext would only be considers covered by the same ISBN only if the liked material is actually a par of the publication. If an online publication is available under different operating systems and languages then each edition will bear a different ISBN.

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