If you’ve ever come across a book, then you’ve heard of the term ISBN or an ISBN lookup. However, do you know what this is and why it’s found in every published book? Read on as we discuss the ISBN in detail.
What Is An ISBN?
To begin our little learning session, we talk about the full meaning of the acronym ISBN. The whole meaning of ISBN is International Standard Book Number. This is a 13-digit number found on the back cover of the book just above the barcode.
In an effort to keep track of the different inventories of bookstores, WHSmith designed a 9-digit code. This code was later changed to 10 digits by the International Organization for Standardization in 1970.
The use of a 10-digit ISBN ended in December 2006, after which a 13-code format was introduced and carried on to this day.
All physical/hardcover books have an ISBN attached to them, and when assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. Other forms of books like audiobooks, brochures, coloring books, graphic novels, e-books, maps, and so on also possess an ISBN. One thing to note is that no two books have the same ISBN.
What Is An ISBN Used For?
For starters, the ISBN is used by publishers to sell their books. Publishers need to apply for a unique ISBN before their products can be sold or listed in any database. In essence, the ISBN is also a tool that allows bookstores and libraries to keep track of and organize their book inventory.
In addition, an ISBN lookup can be done to find out all information regarding a book, such as an author, edition, format, publisher, and title. If you’re also looking to compare different books and prices, an ISBN lookup makes this process easier than scampering through different stores.
What Are The Different Elements Of The ISBN?
The ISBN isn’t just some random number pieced together in the factory. ISBNs are, in fact, calculated using a mathematical formula and include a check digit for validation. The ISBN is composed of 5 elements, each separated by a hyphen. So, if you come across an ISBN like 978-81-239-2411-3, here’s what each element represents.
- The Prefix Element (978) – it’s always either 978 or 979 and 3 digits in length.
- The Registration Group Element (81) – represents the country, region, or language area. This element can be 1 or 5 digits in length.
- The Registrant Element (239)- ranges from 1-7 digits and highlights the publisher or imprint.
- The Publication Element (2411) – ranges from 1-6 digits and shows the particular edition or format of a title.
- The Check Digit Element (3) – is used to validate the rest of the ISBN.
Is ISBN A Form Of Copyright?
It’s important to note that the ISBN serves only as an identifier of books and, thus, can’t be used as a means of legal or copyright protection. However, there are exceptions, as some countries have made the use of an ISBN to identify publications a legal requirement.