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What is an ISBN?

Sunday, April 19, 2009 @ 06:04 PM Karen Hood

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code  created by Gordon Foster, now Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin, for the booksellers and stationers W.H. Smith and others in 1966.

The 10-digit ISBN format was developed by the International Organization for Standardization and was published in 1970 as international standard ISO 2108.  Since 1 January 2007, ISBNs have contained 13 digits, a format that is compatible with the EAN-13 barcode system.

Occasionally, a book may appear without a printed ISBN if it is printed privately or the author does not follow the usual ISBN procedure; however, this is usually later rectified.

A similar numeric identifier, the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), identifies periodical publications such as magazines.

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