International Standard Book Number


November 28, 2021

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is an internationally recognized number, created in 1970, uniquely identifying each edition of each book published, after the introduction of the ISBN, regardless of its support. This permanent identifier is intended to simplify management for all stakeholders in the book chain (publishers, printers, wholesalers, booksellers, libraries). In 2007, the ISBN number was changed from 10 to 13 digits for compatibility with the product code GTIN-13, the basis of the barcode universally used in distribution. The ISBN applies to books, whatever their medium: this can be the traditional paper medium or files for e-readers, for example (each form giving rise to a different ISBN number). However, publications that are not subject to legal deposit are not subject to ISBN.


In the 1960s, in Great Britain, W. H. Smith and Son Ltd., a major British book distributor, sought to simplify its management by providing each edition of each book with a unique identifier. She called on Gordon Foster, professor of statistics at Trinity College, Dublin. He created the nine-digit SBN, which was implemented in 1967 in Great Britain, then in 1968 in the United States. In 1970, the ISO (International Standard Organization) internationalized the concept by standardizing the 10-digit ISBN with a local code. In 2007, the 10-digit ISBN was extended to 13 digits by adding the code 978 at the top, making it possible to convert the ISBN to a GTIN-13 code and to edit it in this form as a barcode. for distribution.

How the ISBN works

To understand how the ISBN code works, you need to know how it is assigned to a work. The operation is totally decentralized: A group of publishers in a region wants to take advantage of the advantages that ISBN provides in marketing the book. These publishers, united in an association called the Local Registration Agency, ask the International ISBN Agency for the allocation of a regional code or ISBN Domain. The International ISBN Agency manages ISBN domains. It is a non-profit organization based in London and working in concert with ISO, the International Organization for Standardization. If a publisher wishes to join the ISBN, they contact the local Registration Agency; this gives him a publisher number. The publisher himself assigns numbers to his own publications according to a few rules.

Construction of the ISBN code

This section first presents the construction of the original ten-character ISBN and then explains the fairly simple changes introduced by the change to thirteen characters for merging with the GTIN-13 code. The ISO 2108 standard (ICS no 01.140.20) specifies the construction of the ISBN number.

Structure of ISBN-10

ISBN-10 consists of four components. These should be separated by dashes or spaces. Example: 2-7654-1005-4 The first element (2 in the example above) is the ISBN Domain, ie the catchment area; it can be a linguistic zone, a region or a country. The second element (7654 above) is the publisher number. It identifies an active publisher in the catchment area. The third element (1005 above) is a publication number assigned by a publisher to one of its publications according to certain rules. Finally the fourth element (4 above) is the control key. The three codes ISBN Domain, Publisher Number and Publication Number have variable lengths, according to the following general rule: plus the catchment area or the publisher have a large number of publications, the shorter their code. Extensive

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