ISBN Barcode Assignment

Around the globe, books are identified with an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and the corresponding ISBN barcode. This standardized book ISBN number allows publishers to seamlessly interact with retailers, wholesalers, libraries and online marketplaces. Printed books need to have an ISBN barcode on the back cover.

Every country has an organization which administers these numbers and the U.S. ISBN Agency is run by Bowker. Publisher Services is a division of Bar Code Graphics, Inc. which specializes exclusively in the book industry. Publisher Services assists small publishers and provides ISBN and ISBN barcodes. Today, Publisher Services is now the largest authorized agent and provides the majority of ISBN barcode assignments to self-publishers.


The Anatomy of an ISBN Barcode

ISBN barcode

The ISBN barcodes on books are comprised of a title’s ISBN and associated price. It is important to understand that every title and format requires a unique ISBN. The pricing barcode add-on displays the US price of a book. In many cases when a price is not yet determined at the time of print, a barcode add-on of “90000” is used to denote “no price in barcode”. ISBN barcodes are not necessary for ebooks since they are not physically scanned. All ISBN assignments and title data are uploaded to the Global Books in Print database.

Placement of the barcode should always be on the back cover (cover 4) and printed in the correct color combinations. The most efficient way a store can register a sale and consequently reorder replenishment books is IF the barcode can be scanned at the register.