What is an ISBN?

What is an ISBN ?

An ISBN is simply an International Standard Book Number.

ISBNs were 10 digits in length up to the end of December 2006, but since 1 January 2007 they now always consist of 13 digits. ISBNs are calculated using a specific mathematical formula and include a check digit to validate the number.

Each ISBN consists of 5 elements with each section being separated by spaces or hyphens. Three of the five elements may be of varying length:

  • EAN Prefix element – The International Article Number (EAN) prefix currently can only be either 978 or 979. It is always 3 digits long.
  • Registration group element – this identifies the particular country, geographical region, or language area participating in the ISBN system. This element can be between 1 and 5 digits long.
  • Registrant element – this identifies the particular publisher or imprint. This can be up to 7 digits long.
  • Publication element – this identifies the particular edition and format of a specific title. This can be up to 6 digits long.
  • Check digit – this is always the final single digit that mathematically validates the rest of the number. It is calculated using a Modulus 10 system with alternate weights of 1 and 3.

All you really need to know is that each book will have a unique number which is the number under the bar code normally found on the back bottom left or right hand corner.

What is an ISBN used for?

An ISBN is essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. The ISBN identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition and format.

If you would like more information on the wacky world of ISBNs here is a link to the National ISBN Agency.

What is an ISSN?

What is an ISSN ?

An ISSN is simply an International Standard Serial Number.

An ISSN is 8 digits long and is used to uniquely identify serial publications such as newspapers, journals, magazines and periodicals of all kinds and on all media including print and electronic.  It may also come with the International Article Number (also known as European Article Number or EAN) three digit prefix, which is always 977 for periodicals.

An ISSN is comprised of  2 groups of 4 digits, separated by a hyphen. The eighth digit is a check digit.  This is calculated by an algorithm using the other 7 digits and can sometimes be replaced by an “X” if the result of running the algorithm is equal to 10 to avoid adding a ninth digit to the ISSN for consistency.

An ISSN can also be represented on a periodical in a 13 digit format consisting of 4 elements with each section being separated by spaces or hyphens as described below.  

  • EAN Prefix element – The International Article Number (EAN) prefix can only be 977 for periodicals.  It is always 3 digits long.
  • Title ISSN element – the first 7 digits of the ISSN without the hyphen or the check digit, this identifies the periodical.
  • Edition Varient element – 2 variable digits that can be used by the publisher to express additional information such as a price change etc. 
  • Check digit – always the final single digit, or “X”, that mathematically validates the rest, calculated using a Modulus 10 system.

An issue number comprises of 2 or 5 digits can also feature on periodical bar codes as shown in the image below:

All you really need to know is that each magazine or periodical will have a unique number which is the number over or under the bar code normally found on the front bottom left or right hand corner.  If your work is published in magazines etc. then you should be aware of ISSN.  Magazines usually have the same ISSN for every edition / issue  Treat these the same as a book’s ISBN when making a log of all your published work.

What is an ISSN used for?

 The ISSN is especially helpful in distinguishing between serials with the same title. ISSN are used in ordering, cataloging, interlibrary loans, and other practices in connection with serial literature

Similar to ISBNs for books an ISSN is essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes.

If you would like more information on the wacky world of ISSNs then please click here.

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