Call us today! 1.800.662.0703
Official ISBN Agency Channel Partner

What is an ISBN and how is it used?

Posted on: December 11th, 2013 by Publisher Services

What is an ISBN and how is it used?

ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number.” It is a unique identifier for books, eBooks, tapes, and CD’s. The ISBN numbering system is used worldwide and publishers around the globe identify their work in this standardized format. Each title or edition must be identified by a unique ISBN. In essence, the ISBN is similar to a license plate which guarantees that each book type product is identified uniquely.

The 13-digit identifier is composed of different parts. Each component is not intended to be parsed out individually and the entire ISBN should be used for title identification through the supply chain.

  1. Group or country identifier – identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers (US: 978-0-  and 978-1)
  2. Registrant – identifies a registrant (publisher) within a group
  3. Title identifier – identifies a particular title or edition of a title
  4. Check digit – the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

The International ISBN Agency in the UK coordinates all ISBN allotments and individual group agencies assign ISBNs for each country. Every country has an organization which administers these numbers. These numbering organizations typically have a database component to their organization. In the US, the Global Books In Print database is maintained by the US ISBN Agency.  Title information for all assignments from Publisher Services are uploaded to this global database when provided.

The ISBN and title information are necessary for the wholesale and retail supply chains to efficiently identify and process books. Without a global database, every publisher would need convey title information with each of their individual retail/wholesale trading partners.  Large publishers, such as Random House, would constantly be sending title information to each of their clients every time a new book was released or altered. A global database enables all trading partners to share common information and reduce redundant data entry. Listing within the Global Books in Print database also enables titles to be “discovered.”


Package Comparison:
Unmatched Phone Support (Talk to a real person)
Author/Publisher retains ownership and copyright
Clients manage title data & cover art on our Client Portals
ISBN Assignment (Unique and linked to Global Databases)
No annual fees
Discounted Copyright Registration
Complimentary Standard Book Sales Page (Info)
Digital barcode included (barcode stickers also available)
Your company listed as the publisher - Expedited as US ISBN Agency Channel Partner
"Independent Publisher" is the listed publisher (information)
Quantity Discount (i.e. 10 ISBNs & barcodes are $28.00 each)
Delivery Time