International Standard Book Number


January 23, 2022

The International Standard Book Number, initially called Standard Book Numbering (SBN), is an international system for identifying books and software that uses numbers to classify them by title, author, country, publisher and edition. Created in 1967 and used by both book dealers and libraries, it was transformed in 1972 by the International Organization for Standardization into an international standard: ISO 2108.


The purpose of the system is the numerical identification of a book according to its title, author, country, or language code, and the publisher, including individualizing different editions. Once the identification is fixed, it only applies to that work and edition, never repeated in another. Also used to identify software, its numerical system is converted into a bar code, which eliminates language barriers and facilitates its circulation and commercialization. The versatility provided by this registry system facilitates the interconnection of files and the retrieval and transmission of data in automated systems, which is why it is adopted internationally. The ISBN simplifies the search and bibliographic updating, contributing to cultural integration between peoples. As of January 1, 2007, the ISBN consists of thirteen digits instead of ten digits. To differentiate them, ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 are written. The ISBN system is controlled by the International ISBN Agency, based in Berlin, Germany, which guides, coordinates and delegates powers to the designated National Agencies in each country. An ISBN number is assigned to each edition of a book (except reprints) and its variations (softcover or hardcover), and in the case of ebooks it may differ depending on the reading platform. The ISBN is 13 digits long if assigned after January 1, 2007, and 10 digits if assigned before 2007. An ISBN consists of 4 or 5 parts: for a 13-digit ISBN, a GS1 prefix: 978 or 979 (indicates the industry, in this case 978 means book publishing) the group identifier, the editor code, the item number (book title), and a check digit. The different components of the ISBN (group, title, publisher and check digit) are separated by a hyphen or a space. No part of the ISBN has a fixed number of digits in addition to the check digit.

ISBN issuance

The issuance of ISBN numbers is country-specific and tailored to each country's national objectives. In Canada, ISBN is issued free of charge, with the aim of stimulating culture. In the UK and US, ISBN issuance has become a profit center for responsible companies. Publishers and authors should therefore obtain ISBN numbers from the national agency in each country. A list of ISBN agencies is available on the International ISBN Agency website. In Brazil, the subject is dealt with in Law nº 10.753/2003 and ISBN issuance is carried out by the Brazilian ISBN Agency, currently completely online. To issue ISBN, the author or publisher must register as an editor on the platform by paying a fee of R$270.00. After confirming the information sent, the Brazilian ISBN Agency releases the publisher to issue its ISBNs, generating a fixed cost of R$43.00 for each issue with the ISBN and JPEG barcode, the barcode being not mandatory . If the author or publisher is not willing to pay and get involved in this entire process, it is possible to hire a company to intermediate the situation.

Group identifier

The group identifier is a 1 to 5 digit number. One-digit group identifiers are: 0 or 1 for English-speaking countries; 2 for French, 3 for German, 4 for Japan

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