What is International Standard Book Number (ISBN)?

ISBNs have been 13 digits in length since January 2007. It divides into four types of variable length, each separated by a hyphen.

What is ISBN
What is ISBN?

An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number that uniquely recognises books and similar products published globally. ISBNs have been 13 digits in length since January 2007. It divides into four types of variable length, each separated by a hyphen. It consisted of 10 digits till the end of December 2006. ISBNs are estimated using a particular mathematical formula and involve a checking digit to validate the number. 

The ISBN aims to set up and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, permitting for more efficient marketing of products by libraries, booksellers, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

The four types of an ISBN considered are: namely group or country identifier, which recognises a national or geographic grouping of publishers, publisher identifier, which identifies a specific publisher within a group, title identifier, which recognises a particular title or edition of a title and verifying digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which approves the ISBN.

These are allocated to text-based monographic publications (one-off publications instead of journals, newspapers, or other serials). Any book listed publicly available, whether for sale or on a gratis basis, can be viewed by ISBN. Individual sections (such as chapters) of books or issues, articles from journals, periodicals or serials that are listed available distinctly may also use the ISBN as an identifier.

Considering the wide availability of media, it is of no significance in what form and structure the content is documented and distributed. Although, each different product form such as paperback, EPUB .pdf should be identified separately.

Each ISBN comprises five elements, with each section distinguished by spaces or hyphens. 

Following are those elements:

  1. Prefix element: This can only be either 978 or 979. It is always three digits in length.
  2. Registration group element: This recognises the specific country, geographical region or language area taking part in the ISBN system. This element may be between 1 and 5 digits in length.
  3. Registrant element: This identifies the particular publisher or imprint. It could be up to 7 digits in length.
  4. Publication element: This identifies the specific edition and format of a particular title. It may be up to 6 digits in length.
  5. Check digit: This remains the final single digit that mathematically verifies the rest of the number. It is estimated using a Modulus 10 system with different weights of 1 and 3.

ISBNs end in an ‘X’ because the last number of the ISBN, the upper case X, can seem set there when it comes to the check digit. The approach of ascertaining the check digit for the ISBN is the modulus 11 with the weighting factors from 10 to 1. The Roman numeral X is used instead of 10, where ten would happen as a check digit.

It is invariably the publisher of the book who should apply for the ISBN. For the work related to ISBN, the publisher is the group, company, organisation or individual who is held accountable for starting the production of a publication. Generally, it is also the person or body who bears the cost and financial threats in making a product available. It is not usually the printer, but it can be the book’s author if the author has preferred to publish their book themselves.

One should permit five business days for non-priority processing from when an ISBN application is received at the agency (not from the date dispatched by the publisher). Priority processing takes two business days from when an application is received at the agency, while Express processing has 24 business hours of the process.