FAQ: What is an ISBN?

What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a unique identifying number for a book.  It refers to a specific edition which means that a paperback and a hardcover of the same title will have different ISBNs.  A textbook will have a separate ISBN for each edition. If a book is reprinted by its same publisher, without any changes or revisions, it will keep the same ISBN.  Publishers, libraries, booksellers both in retail stores and online, find ISBNs invaluable.  A book shopper can also find them very helpful.

All books published since 1970 (1974 in the U.K.) have 10-digit ISBNs.

isbn on rear cover of book
How to locate the ISBN on the rear cover of a book.

Since 2005-2007 books also have a 13-digit number which begins with 978.

To find the ISBN look on the back of the book. If the number is not identified as ISBN, then look in the bar code area for a 13-digit number beginning with 978.  The ISBN can also be found on the Copyright page in the front of the book.

Tips for using an ISBN for a search:

  • You can use either the 10-digit or 13-digit ISBN to search in the keyword field on Biblio.com.
  • You do not need to include dashes, just the number with no spaces between the numbers.
  • An ISBN refers to a specific edition of a book.  If you need a particular edition or format for a book, the ISBN should guarantee getting the book you expect.
  • This is particularly relevant with textbooks and other books that have been updated.
  • As previously mentioned, paperback editions and hardcover editions will have their own ISBNs.
  • If you are looking for a book with specific formatting such as large print, or possibly an edition printed in the U.K. instead of the U.S., then the ISBN can be very useful.
  • If you want to read a book but are not particular about the edition, then don’t limit yourself to one ISBN. Search with the title or title and author information.
  • Keep in mind that books published before 1970 will not have an ISBN.  Even though a book is currently out-of-print, as long as it was published after 1970, it will have an ISBN.  Sometimes books that are out of print are reprinted.

Biblio offers a unique multiple ISBN search that allows you to enter one or more ISBN numbers to be searched for simultaneously. Biblio’s ISBN Search helps you find the right title, every time.



This entry was written by and posted on December 2, 2010 at 4:27 pm, filed under Book Identification, Book Terminology, FAQs About Books, How-to and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink

8 Responses to “FAQ: What is an ISBN?”

  1. Felipe panameño

    I have a book ready to be publish. Where can I get a ISBN?
    FELIPE

    Reply
  2. Neha Banchhor

    i wanted to know about the terma and conditions for applying an ISBN?

    Reply
  3. barbara setzer

    i have a few collectabe books i want to sell hope you can help.some are first editions.by earnest hemingway,charles dickens,robert l.stevinson,edgar allen poe,pearl buck,mark twan,thats a few and most are first editions.i want to know if you can get me a good price.thanks,barbara

    Reply
  4. Heimen Klaus

    @Neha I hope you’ll find some answers on following website http://lookup-isbn.com/faq/

    Reply
  5. MARY BETH

    I HAVE A LOT OF BOOKS PULBISHED IN THE EARLY 1900 TO LATE 1800. WHAT CAN I DO WITH THEM BESIDES DONATING THEM. WHO DO I CONTACT ABOUT SELLING THEM AND WHERE CAN I FIND INFO ABOUT HOW MUCH THEY ARE WORTH. MANY ARE FIRST EDITIONS

    Reply
    • Phil

      You might be able to publish them if the copyright has expired. Might be something to look into.

      Reply
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  7. Rose

    I need a textbook for a class. It needs to be the 8th edition. I currently have the 8th edition, published in the correct year as specified by my instructor. However, the ISBN number he gave is different. It needs to be the same because I need to have access to the interactive online website linked with the book. The book I have also has access to it, but I have no way of knowing if it’s the right book. Is it the same book?

    Reply

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