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[Frequently asked questions about ISBN] [back to book design]
What is an ISBN?
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 10-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally. The US ISBN agency is the official source for ISBNs in the United States.

What is the purpose of an ISBN?
The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

What is the format of the ISBN?
Every ISBN consists of ten digits and whenever it is printed it is preceded by the letters ISBN. The ten-digit number is divided into four parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen.

Does the ISBN have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
The four parts of an ISBN are as follows:
Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers;
Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group;
Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title;
Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

Who is eligible for an ISBN?
The ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs at the direct request of publishers, e-book publishers, audio cassette and video producers, software producers and museums and associations with publishing programs.

How much does it cost to get an ISBN?
There is a service fee to process all ISBN applications. Service fee information is contained on the application. Priority and Express processing involve an additional fee.
NOTE: The processing service charge is NON-REFUNDABLE.

What do I do when I receive the ISBN and where is it printed?
An ISBN should be assigned to each title or product, including any backlist or forthcoming titles. Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN (i.e. hardcover, paperbound, VHS video, laserdisc, e-book format, etc). A new ISBN is required for a revised edition. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. An ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

How & where do I register my ISBN?
Once ISBNs have been assigned to products they should be reported to R.R. Bowker as the database of record for the ISBN Agency. Companies are eligible for a free listing in various directories such as Books in Print, Words on Cassette, The Software Encyclopedia, Bowker's Complete Video Directory, etc.
NOTE: Receiving just your ISBNs does NOT guarantee title listings. To ensure your titles get in the Books in Print database you must submit your title information.

Book titles should be registered with Books in Print at www.bowkerlink.com

How are ISBNs used in a Bar Code & how do I obtain one?
The ISBN can be translated into a worldwide compatible bar code format. Publishers who wish to have their ISBNs translated into worldwide compatible bar codes can now make their request directly online at www.isbn.org or www.bowkerbarcode.com. Bar code scanning is a required step required by for many retailers in the sales transaction process for book publications and book-related items. We hope that offering this service will save you time and enable you to meet all of your transaction partners' requirements.

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