Since 1970, the international standard ISO 2108 has provided for the assignation of an identification code to every published document. The ISBN code (International Standard Book Number) is a barcode that is represented in a format unique to the book industry.

The concept originated in Great Britain during the second half of the 1960s at a time when computers were beginning to enter the market. Manufacturers, entrepreneurs and other merchants understood that this was the future of computerized product information.

Until January 1, 2007, the ISBN code was composed of 13 numbers. Before this date, the ISBN assigned to various publications had only 10 digits. The code was lengthened because there were not enough number combinations possible given the international nature of this standard.

The number sequence of the ISBN code was not chosen at random. Each segment contains the following information:

1. Product code: The first three numbers refer to the product type “book” (compatible with the universal system International Article Number, or EAN). To date, it is represented by the prefixes 978 and 979. In 2007 these three numbers were added to the then 10-figure ISBN code.

2. Group identifier: This number corresponds to the language of the publisher (and not the language of the document), which is 1 for English-speaking publishers and 2 for French-speaking publishers. (Before 1979, French-speaking publishers in Canada used the 0 digit.)

3. Publisher: These four digits identify the publisher.

4. Item number:These four digits identify the title of the document.

5. Checksum character: This last number checks for errors in the ISBN code.

Like with other barcodes, ISBN facilitates the management of inventory and orders all along the management, publication and distribution process. It makes it possible to catalog millions of published works that may then be distributed across the globe to bookstores, libraries and schools or sold through partners, publishers, or online.

For further information regarding ISBN codes, please don’t hesitate to contact me or one of our representatives.