One Worldwide Product Identifier: A Crash Course in Changes to the ISBN

December 2004
by Eric Throndson

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THIS WAY TO THE AGE OF ISBN-13

One Worldwide Product Identifier: A Crash Course in Changes to the ISBN

by Eric Throndson

Let’s face it. You always suspected that all the hoopla over Y2K was a little over the top. And when the lights stayed on and your bank account remained in the black (or the red, as the case may be), you were even more sure of it.

The truth can finally be told: Y2K was really just a dry run for Y2007.

The entire book industry—from publisher to patron—needs to get ready for ISBN-13. On January 1, 2007, the ISBN will grow to 13 digits. This may appear to be a rather simple thing at first blush, but its ramifications are very real and far-reaching.

A quick refresher: the ISBN consists of a group identifier, a publisher’s prefix, an item number, and a check digit. The check digit is calculated through an arithmetic formula and is used by computer systems to validate the preceding 9-digit “core.” With ISBN-13, all current 10-digit ISBNs will be getting a prefix of 978. This will necessitate recalculating the check digit, so that the last digit of the ISBN-13 will not be the same as the last digit of the ISBN-10. Some good news is that the check digit will be calculated using a different arithmetic formula, and the X in the last position of some ISBNs will be a relic of history.

Example: ISBN-10: 01401…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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