International Standard Book Number


January 21, 2022

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique identifier of books and other limited publications regardless of the medium (paper, CD ...) on which they are published. Its application began in 1966, when it began to be used in Great Britain as SBN (Standard Book Number), and it included only publishers from the English-speaking area. In the seventies of the last century, SBN became internationally accepted and was renamed ISBN. In 1972, the International ISBN Agency was established with its headquarters in Berlin, which coordinates the work of national ISBN agencies and monitors the implementation of the system.

ISBN structure

The International Standard Book Number designation consists of acronyms of the English name ISBN and thirteen digits arranged in five groups separated by a hyphen. The first group consists of a three-digit prefix, the second is a national, geographical, or linguistic group, a third is a publisher, a fourth is a title, and a fifth is a control number. "The number of digits in the third and fourth groups depends on the publisher's plan, ie the number of titles that the publisher intends to publish." Until 1 January 2007, the ISBN consisted of ten digits arranged in four groups separated by a space or a hyphen. As of January 1, 2007, the International Standard Book Number designation has changed from ten-digit to thirteen-digit, so that the ten-digit designation has been given the three-digit prefix 978 and a new control number. In this way, the international standard book number is fully compliant with the bar code EAN-13 (European Article Numbering). Publishers who joined the ISBN system before January 1, 2007 may not use the ten-digit ISBNs assigned to them before that date, but must convert them to thirteen-digit ISBNs using a converter available on the official ISBN presentation.

How the publisher joins the ISBN system

Any publisher wishing to join the ISBN system should first complete a questionnaire, which is downloaded from the National ISBN Agency, and submit the publisher's plan. Based on that, the publisher takes the appropriate place in the ISBN system. By joining the ISBN system, the data on the publisher are published in the International Directory of Publishers (Publishers' International. ISBN Directory), which is published once a year by the International ISBN Agency. Why ISBN? The introduction of the international standard book number is the result of the growth of publishing production worldwide but also the need for all forms of book business (import-export, order processing, pre-order records, marketing, bibliographic description, all forms of international book exchange, inventory, storage services, etc. ) be updated and computer readable, ie. suitable for automatic data processing.


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Bookstore Librarianship Publisher Bibliographic description COBISS

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