By Joe Moore
The authors here at TKZ blog write in the mystery/thriller genre. We cover the gamut of action and suspense themes. All our books contain totally different stories and different styles from different perspectives and voices. We are individual writing original fiction.
But there’s one thing we all have in common with each other and every other published writer. Somewhere on the cover of our books is a number (usually displayed with a bar code) called the International Standard Book Number (ISBN). Recently, someone asked me what the number meant, besides just identifying the specific book. I had no idea, so I went searching for a answers.
Here’s what I found.
The ISBN system is universal. So anyone with knowledge of the numbering system can decipher what it means including where it was published.
Up until January 1, 2007, ISBN’s contained 10 digits. Now they have 13.
An ISBN-13 is made up of five parts usually separated by hyphens. The first part is 978 to comply with something called the GS1 global standard.
The second part is a group or country identifier. English speaking countries start with 0 or 1. French with 2. German with 3. Japan with 4. Here’s a list of all the group/country identifiers.
The next part is the publisher’s number. Publishers usually purchase blocks of ISBN’s.
The publisher’s numeric title of the book is the next number.
The final number is called a “check digit” used for error detection and to validate the ISBN. It is always a single digit, so if the formula used to determine the check digit produces a 10, it is designated by the Roman numeral X.
Here’s some additional info on ISBNs.
A new ISBN number is required if you change the title on a reprint, make a substantial revision (approximately 15-20% of the text), and change the format or binding such as going to audio or hard cover to paperback.
There’s no need to use a new ISBN on additional printings or if the price changes.
You can never reuse an ISBN on another book if the first goes out of print. Plus, even if a book is declared out of print, many booksellers such as Amazon are involved in the selling of used books. So the title and ISBN can remain active long after the publisher has stopped printing.
Although it’s a dry topic, the ISBN is a common thread that binds all published authors together. And like so many other elements in the publishing world, we should all be aware of what that little number means on the back of our books.
Coming Sunday, June 21, Paul Kemprecos tells us what it’s like to collaborate with Clive Cussler. And future Sunday guest bloggers include Robert Liparulo, Linda Fairstein, Julie Kramer, Grant Blackwood, and more.