International Standard Book Number


November 28, 2021

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a numeric code designed to uniquely identify book editions. In addition to Arabic numerals, the character X (Roman numeral 10) and dividing hyphens or spaces appear in it. The ISBN is specified by the international standard ISO 2108, adopted in the Czech Republic as ČSN ISO 2108 (originally, ISBN was introduced in Czechoslovakia as a replacement for the identifier of Czechoslovak books on January 1, 1989 in ČSN 01 0189). In Czech books, the ISBN is usually stated on the back of the title page and in the bar code on the cover.


When the British bookshop W H Smith decided in 1965 to implement a computerized management system by 1967, it needed a clear book numbering system. His proposal was requested by an association of British publishers, which entrusted Professor Gordon Foster of the London School of Economics with this task. In 1966, he and a team of experts designed a system using nine-digit codes, which was later named SBN (Standard Book Numbering). The system came into use the following year, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) began to consider its international use. The result of the meeting of the Technical Commission was the adoption of SBN as an international standard (already under the ISBN) ISO 2108 in 1970. ISBN differs from SBN in adding the area designation to the beginning of the code (English-speaking area was assumed for SBN; digit 0 to the beginning). In July 1972, the International ISBN Agency was established in Berlin to coordinate the ISBN system. By 2007, the ISBN code had ten digits (nine digits and a check digit). As of January 1, 2007, the code has been expanded to thirteen digits, to align with the ISBN representation in the barcode, and to expand the system's capacity. EAN prefix 978 was supplemented by prefix 979, which doubled the capacity. In connection with these changes, the International ISBN Agency was moved to London.


The ISBN has a fixed structure, basic information about the origin of the book can be obtained from the individual parts of the identifier. The designation is composed of parts of variable length joined by hyphens or separated by spaces; the code is (mandatory) preceded by the ISBN. The original ten-digit ISBN (now referred to as ISBN-10) contains four groups, the new thirteen-digit (ISBN-13) initially has an extra group. ISBN-13 now has an identical structure to EAN-13 barcodes, so books are listed directly as ISBNs. (The older ISBN-10 needed a minor tweak.) The first part is the newly added prefix at ISBN-13: constant 978 (for books) or 979 (for music), which indicates the GS1 barcode prefix. The rest of the code is in principle identical for both ISBN-13 and ISBN-10. The second part of the ISBN (the first for ISBN-10) is the so-called group identifier, which describes the country or geographical or language region. This section contains one to five digits, the meanings being assigned by the International ISBN Agency. Codes 0 and 1 indicate English-speaking countries, 2 French-speaking countries, 3 German, 4 Japanese, 5 Russian, 7 Chinese, etc., the identifier 80 is used for the Czechia and Slovakia. The group identifier can have up to five digits, eg Bhutan has a code 99936. The group identifiers form a prefix code, so the length of this part can be unambiguously specified even without hyphens. The next part is the publisher identification, which identifies the publisher of the book using a code that is unique within the group. The publisher's code can be up to seven digits long, the codes are assigned by ISBN authorities in individual groups (states, regions). In the Czech Republic, this office is the National ISBN Agency, which operates at the National Library of the Czech Republic. WITH

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