Tuesday, April 15, 2008

We have a lot of customers inquiring about if they need an ISBN number and Bar Code for their books. The answer to that depends upon your needs. Let’s start with the ISBN Number. You are not legally required to have an ISBN number. It simply depends upon if and how you are going to sell your book. So if you are selling your book through workshops, direct mail or through the Internet, you most likely will NOT need an ISBN number or Bar Code.

If you plan to sell your books through retail chains, and specialty stores and catalogues, (Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.) you will most likely be required by the reseller to obtain an ISBN number for your book for inventory and general ordering purposes.

An ISBN number identifies a book title or edition from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, meaning that it can never be reused. This also means that if you sell both a hard copy and a soft cover of your book, you must have two unique ISBN numbers.

The ISBN itself is a 10-digit number that is divided into four parts separated by hyphens. The first part of the ISBN is a group or country identifier. The second part is a publisher identifier. The third part is a title identifier. The last digit is a check digit used to validate the ISBN. In other words, the ISBN is a code that identifies your book around the world. You can apply for an ISBN number by contacting Bowker, who is the U.S. broker for ISBN numbers.

Now for the Universal Product Code (UPC), also known as the Bar Code. This is a computerized product identification system. The ISBN is not the same thing as your Bar Code. Most retail chains require both a ISBN Number and Bar Code. However, the ISBN Number can be translated into bar code format. When you purchase your ISBN number through Bowker, you can also purchase the Bar Code, or you can find a list of UPC Code (or Bar Code) suppliers here.