The meaning of ISBN numbers

Many used book sellers want to know the meaning of the ISBN codes used to classify books, CDs and DVDs in the publishing industry.

The ISBN, which is short for “International Standard Book Number”, is a different number, usually printed just above the UPC barcode on the back cover. It is featured with dashes throughout.

As a used bookseller, this is the number that you will primarily use when searching for book values ​​online, as well as when publishing books for sale online.

The meaning of the ISBN:

This 10- or 13-digit code will help you speed up your search for profitable titles to sell, and it is essential that you list your products for sale on websites such as,, and

Bookstores reorder their inventory of books using these numbers. Each publisher requests large blocks of ISBNs to attach to the individual editions of the books they release. Therefore, the paperback and hardcover versions will be similar, but different, for each publisher.

Without the ISBN there would be chaos. It would be nearly impossible to organize the tens of thousands of new titles and updated versions of previously published work.

The ISBN was introduced about 40 years ago. Initially, ISBNs were 10 digits long for more than 30 years. On January 1, 2007, the ISBN system changed to a 13-digit format. Now all ISBNs have 13 digits. Currently, the new ISBN-13s start with the numbers “978”. In a few years, those new ISBNs will start with “979.”

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

The different parts of the ISBN are easy to decipher. Each ISBN consists of ten or thirteen digits and is preceded by the letters “ISBN” whenever it is printed. The ten-digit number is divided into four variable-length parts, and hyphens separate each part. Sometimes the ISBN ends with an “X”.

The four parts of an ISBN:

1. Group / Country Identifier: Identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers.

2. Publisher identifier: identifies a particular publisher within a group.

3. Title Identifier: Identifies a particular title or a unique edition of a title.

4. Check digit: a single digit at the end of the ISBN that validates the ISBN.

Each country has its own designated agency that assigns the ISBN to publishers and self-publishers in that country. According to the website, Bowker is the company that operates the US ISBN agency, they are not authorized to generate an ISBN for publishers and self-publishers located outside of the United States and its territories.

Bowker claims to be the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information and management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers and libraries better serve their customers. For more background information, or if you are a proprietary publisher and need to request the ISBN of the books you plan to publish, visit for more information.

While the underlying meaning of the ISBN is a recognized official way to keep track of the millions of books on the market, the ISBN gives you an easy and cost-effective way to check the current values ​​of used books, CDs and DVDs that you could sell on popular online websites. By carefully typing the 10- or 13-digit number into’s search engine, you will have instant access to how much the typical book buyer is willing to spend on that particular book, and you will be able to make an informed report. In seconds, decide how much profit you could make by reselling that book online. Knowing the meaning of the ISBN will help you make more money selling books online.

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