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International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN)

What Are They...and, Why Are They So Important?

Since 2007, the ISBN has been a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally. Previously, the ISBN was a ten-digit number.

What is the purpose of an ISBN?

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.

What are the unique characteristics of an ISBN?

Each format or binding must have a separate ISBN. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused. An ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a book above the bar code and on the copyright page.

Examples of formats which require a unique ISBN include:

  • Hardcover versions of textbooks
  • Paperbound versions of textbooks
  • Indiana Editions of textbooks
  • National Editions of textbooks
  • Teachers Editions of textbooks
  • Examination copies of textbooks (often shared with districts during district new adoption process)
  • Revised editions of textbooks
  • E-book format of textbooks that are purchased from publisher
  • Etc.
Some ISBN's end in an "X," in which case enter the "X" into the search string

Does the ISBN-13 have any meaning imbedded in the numbers?
The five parts of an ISBN are as follows:
  1. The current ISBN-13 will be prefixed by "978"...usually
  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

Tricks and Tips to Identifying the Correct ISBN!

When searching for an ISBN, school-based staff often give the Digital Rights Manager (DRM) the ISBN of the teacher edition or an examination copy.ยท Both of these editions have a different ISBN number than the student textbook edition ISBN. The IERC requires the student edition ISBN number as all of books we transcribe, produce and provide are student editions.

The following are TIPS to identifying the correct ISBN:
  • Ask the school-based staff to make a copy of the back cover of the Student Edition of the textbook or a copy of the copyright page.
  • Google the ISBN (the actual number, itself, without the hyphens). You can also enter the number at to verify the correct edition and textbook information.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Do NOT enter the hyphens of the ISBN when searching any database.

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