Wednesday, July 12, 2006

ISBN-13: Ready or Not, Here it Comes

ISBN-13: Ready or Not, Here it Comes
SLA Toronto Courier, Volume 43, Number 4, Summer 2006
Carolyne Sidey

triskaidekaphobia: an irrational fear of the number 13 (

In the case of the ISBN change, this fear may not be entirely irrational if your Library Management System cannot handle the extra digits. But so far, I have found it makes some things much easier.

To make room. It is a similar situation to the 905/416 phone numbers in the Greater Toronto Area. One day they just ran out and everyone had to start dialing ten digits. It's the same with international standard book numbers and now the ISBN-10 is an ISBN-13.

January 1, 2007
Publishers are using both numbers as an interim step.


Everyone who uses an ISBN - publishers, cataloguers, librarians, book stores, etc.

The ISBN-13 is the same number as the European Article Number (EAN). EAN is the barcode number on the back of books, now known as the "International Article Number." This 13-digit number has been in use for over 20 years in the retail trade.

If you look closely at the ISBN-10 and the barcode number on the back of a book, you will see they are mostly the same. The ISBN-10 simply has a 978 in front of the first nine digits.

The 10th digit of an ISBN is the check digit. A new check digit is required for the ISBN-13.

All books will have 978 or 979 as their first three EAN/ISBN-13 numbers. The official standard for this is ISO 2108:2005. Any ISBN-13 with a 978 prefix can be converted into an ISBN-10, however, there is no ISBN-10 equivalent for a book with a 979 prefix.

What do you need to do?

* Read up on the situation. Understand the implications for your own processes.
* Check with your database / management system vendor to ensure that you will be ISBN-13 compliant. Most will be, and you will not be the only library asking.
* If you use EDI for ordering or claiming, verify with your book vendor that your new EDI files and their EDI files will be read properly after the implementation.
* Enjoy the fact that you can now simply wand in the barcode on the back of the book for an ISBN search.
* Locate and save locations of conversion utilities. You may need them.

Other Sources:

Are You Ready for ISBN-13?

Are You Ready for ISBN-13?

Frequently Asked Questions about the new ISBN standard

Get Ready for the New ISBN!

ISBN-13 for Dummies

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