The answer isn’t as complicated as you might imagine. A book’s ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, helps publishers, retailers, and bookstores in book-tracking.
Nowadays, all books get 13-digit ISBNs (books published before 2007 have the 10-digit versions). At first glance, you’d think that each digit is randomized. But, once we break it into five different groups, we can decode the secrets of the ISBN.
We’ll take you through the groups so you can learn how an ISBN identifies your book.
Prefix: Welcome to Bookland
The newest addition to the ISBN, the prefix, indicates the product’s industry. The number 978 represents the book publishing industry; you’ll see it on all of the e-books in our bookstore.
The prefix allows ISBNs to be recognized by a larger universal product code, called the EAN (which originally stood for European Article Number, but was renamed the International Article Number). In the EAN, these three digits represent the country of origin of the product. The code 978 represents the fictional country of “Bookland.” Sounds like a great place to vacation.
Group Identifier: Where do you hail from?
The group identifier establishes the language or country of origin of your book. The number 0 or 1 identifies that the book is English. 2 identifies French, and 3 identifies German. The number 4 identifies the book was published in Japan, while 607 identifies Mexico.
Because all Booktango e-books are (currently) in English, the books in our bookstore will have a ‘1’ in this spot.
Publisher code: The Booktango Stamp
The third ISBN group is specific to each publisher. We’re proudly sporting 46890. If you see that number in the publishing code section of an ISBN, you know the book is published by Booktango!
Item Number: Title, Edition, Format, Etc.
The fourth group is specific to your book. But it’s not only specific to your book, it’s specific to your book’s edition and format. If you published your book in hardcover, soft cover and digital versions, you’d have three separate item numbers. And if you published a new edition, you’d update the item number again.
At Booktango, we only publish digitally. You’ll have only one item number for your book (and, therefore, only one ISBN to worry about).
Check Digit: Calling All Math Wizards!
People make mistakes. Computers use the check digit to make sure that the ISBN is error-free. So, if someone does type an 8 instead of a 3 when entering your ISBN into their tracking system, the check digit will tell the computer that there’s been a mistake.
It does so using a special algorithm. And if you want try it on your own ISBN, follow along with us.
978146890224, Check digit 2
9(1)+7(3)+8(1)+1(3)+4(1)+6(3)+8(1)+9(3)+0(1)+2(3)+2(1)+4(3) = 118
118 modulo 10 = 110 remainder 8
10 – 8 = 2
There you have it; the secrets have been revealed. Now, you truly know what an ISBN is.