What Is ISBN (International Standard Book Number)?

There is more to being a writer than just simply putting words on paper and compiling them into chapters and then books. There are other aspects you need to be knowledgeable about to be a successful writer, i.e., finances, marketing, distribution, publishing, etc.

Knowing what an ISBN is, what function it serves, and how to obtain it is as important as any other aspect of being a writer, seeing as you cannot publish a book without it. Read on to find out more vital information about the ISBN and its purpose. (Also learn about DOI)

So, What Is ISBN?

An ISBN is a unique serial number implemented in 1967, assigned to books sold on retail, usually located at the back of the book above the barcode. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, is calculated using a particular mathematical formula. It used to consist of 10 digits in length until January 1, 2007, when the digits were increased to 13.

There are five elements contained in the ISBN, with each element separated by a hyphen or space, these include;

  • Prefix element: It is always three digits in length and is either denoted as 978 or 979.
  • Registration group element: This represents the country, geographical zone, or nomenclature participating in the ISBN system. It is usually between 1-5 digits.
  • Registrant element: This denotes the specific imprint or publisher. It has a maximum of 7-digit length.
  • Publication element: Identifies the specific format and edition of a particular title. Usually a maximum length of 6 digits.
  • Check digit: This is a single digit that is always the last on the row. It validates the plausibility of the rest of the digits. It is calculated with the Modulus 10 system alternating between weights of 3 & 1.


What Is the Function of an ISBN?

International Standard Book Numbers are used as an identifier; they are used to differentiate between several products. It is used on only one-off publications like novels, textbooks, etc (Learn about the best books written in English).

Any book made publicly available, as long as it was registered with an ISBN, can be tracked down directly to its publishers. As a product identifier, it is used by publishers, booksellers, internet retailers, libraries, etc. For orders, sales records, listing, and stock control purposes.

A Step-to-step Process to Get an ISBN

The process of obtaining an ISBN varies from region to region, but generally, the process involves six steps:

Step 1. First of all, you need to register, log on to the international website, and select “Find agency.”

Step 2. Select your base country, and if you represent an organization or company, select the country where your headquarters are based.

Step 3. Create an account with your national agency using yours or your company’s email account

Step 4. Select the option to buy your ISBN on the home screen

Step 5. Provide the required details and fill out the application

Step 6. Pay the application fee. This fee varies across different countries.

The period of processing your request varies across regions, but when your ISBN has been fully processed, you will receive a mail with further instructions.

Who Should Apply for ISBN?

The person who usually applies is the Publisher of the book or any other one-off written document. But in essence, it is the risk bearer, the person who bears the cost which applies for an ISBN. It could be a sponsor, company, group, or book’s author if the author independently publishes the book.

(Get assistance for handling paper submission)

In Conclusion

The importance of ISBN cannot be overstated. They are like your social security numbers, which are unique to you as an individual.

These numbers are particular to every publication, and it should be noted that a book cannot be sold without having an ISBN. It should also be noted that they do not covey any form of copyright or legal protection.

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By Bizhan Romani

Dr. Bizhan Romani has a PhD in medical virology. When it comes to writing an article about science and research, he is one of our best writers. He is also an expert in blogging about writing styles, proofreading methods, and literature.

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