ISBN Numbers

Learning Center

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally.

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.

Every ISBN will consist of thirteen digits in 2007. The thirteen digit number is divided into five parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen.

The five parts of an ISBN are as follows:
1. The current ISBN-13 will be prefixed by "978"
2. Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers;
3. Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group;
4. Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title;
5. Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

There are over 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, and each ISBN Agency is appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory. The United States ISBN Agency is the only source authorized to assign ISBNs to publishers supplying an address in the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico and its database establishes the publisher of record associated with each prefix.

Once an ISBN publisher prefix and associated block of numbers has been assigned to a publisher by the ISBN Agency, the publisher can assign ISBNs to publications it holds publishing rights to. However, after the ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs to a publisher, that publisher cannot resell, re-assign, transfer, or split its list of ISBNs among other publishers. These guidelines have been established to ensure the veracity, accuracy and continued utility of the international ISBN standard.

As defined by the ISO Standard, the ISBN publisher prefix (or "root" of the ISBN) identifies a single publisher. If a second publisher subsequently obtains an ISBN from the assigned publisher's block of ISBNs, there will be no change in the publisher of record for any ISBN in the block as originally assigned. Therefore, searches of industry databases for that re-assigned ISBN will identify the original owner of that assigned prefix as the publisher rather than the second publisher. Discovering this consequence too late can lead to extensive costs in applying for a new prefix, re-assigning a new ISBN, and potentially leading to the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation.

If you are a new publisher, apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain. You may encounter offers from other sources to purchase single ISBNs at special offer prices; you should be wary of purchasing from these sources for the reasons noted above. There are unauthorized re-sellers of ISBNs and this activity is a violation of the ISBN standard and of industry practice. A publisher with one of these re-assigned ISBNs will not be correctly identified as the publisher of record in Books In Print or any of the industry databases such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon or those of wholesalers such as Ingram. If you have questions, contact the US ISBN Agency for further advice.

To purchase an ISBN:

There are 2 ways to get a ISBN:

1. Buy From Us PrintPapa: Once you place the order for your book, and you have chosen this option, then all you have to do is fill the ISBN application form to provide all the details about the book. Sit back and relax and we do the rest. We will register your book detail in the ISBN directory, generate a unique ISBN number, generate a barcode, embed the barcode into the back side of the cover, and send you a PDF Proof. Please note this takes around 2 to 3 days once you submit the ISBN application form. 
Note: If you use this method then our name will be listed as the Publisher with Bowker. You still keep complete control of your book, retain all rights and profits


2. Buy Directly from Bowker: Your name or company name will be listed as the publisher. It will cost you around $150 or more for both the ISBN and the Barcode, plus you will need graphics design expertise to embed the bardcode into the cover page.

You must have an ISBN number for your book in order to be listed by any online retailers: offers a program called " Advantage" that will allow you to sell your book through their website. It is free to join this program.

In order for your book listed at Barnes and you must first become listed as a "Vendor of Record" with their warehouse.

If you find that your book is listed by either or but they are not displaying the cover image or description you can submit them. For information on submitting your cover art or book description: visit their Publishers and Book Sellers Guide.

Barnes and Noble: visit their Publisher & Author Guidelines.