International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN)
A Brief History
The International Standard Book Number has its origins
in the Standard Book Numbering system developed in England for bookseller
W. H. Smith. The Standard Book Numbering system was introduced in the UK in
The International Standards Organization, (ISO),
investigated the feasibility of adapting the British system for international
use in 1968. The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) was approved as
an ISO standard in 1970.
An ISBN has 10 digits, separated by hyphens. In Readerware
you can enter ISBN's with or without hyphens, Readerware will automatically
add the hyphens in the correct places. The ISBN is divided into 4 parts:
The check digit is used to validate the preceding 9
digits. The check digit will sometimes be an X. All other characters must
- Group identifier (1 digit, typically 0
or 1 for English-speaking countries)
- Publisher identifier
- Title identifier
- Check digit
The publisher identifiers are assigned by various Government
agencies. The title identifiers are assigned by the publishers themselves.
Therein lies a problem. The ISBN should be unique but a publisher could reuse
ISBN's from out of print titles, or simply make a mistake and assign duplicate
numbers to different titles. So occasionally you will run across different
titles with the same ISBN.
The check digit is calculated from the preceding
9 digits. Unfortunately not all check digits have been calculated correctly.
You will sometimes run across a book with an ISBN that has an invalid check
digit. This problem occurs mostly on older titles.
Readerware handles this by displaying an error dialog
whenever it detects an invalid ISBN. Normally you will get this dialog when
you enter an invalid ISBN, so the proper response is to click on Reject
and correct the ISBN. However because you will occasionally run across an
invalid ISBN on a book, Readerware allows you to override the error and accept
the ISBN anyway. You should only override the ISBN error in those rare cases
when a book has an invalid ISBN.
Where to find the ISBN
All modern books, (hardcover and paperbacks), include
the ISBN on the copyright page. Hardcover books today will include the ISBN
as part of the European Article Number, (EAN), commonly referred to as the
UPC or bar code, which is located on the back
of the book jacket. Paperback books may also include an EAN but mass market
paperbacks typically do not. So the bar code on a mass market paperback will
not include the ISBN, but a mass market paperback may include the EAN on
the inside front cover.
On older books, the ISBN can be virtually anywhere.
If the copyright page does not include the ISBN, check the book jacket, typically
the spine or the back cover. Books published before 1970 will of course not
have an ISBN.
ISBN and bar codes
Remember that anywhere you can enter an ISBN in Readerware,
you can enter it via a bar code reader. A bar
code reader can make entering and maintaining data in Readerware a lot easier.
They are the fastest way to search for a book. See The Readerware Web Site for recommendations
on specific bar code readers.
Library of Congress Card Catalog
The Library of Congress Card Catalog Number predates
the ISBN and can also be useful when cataloging books with Readerware. You
will often find the LCCN on books from the fifties and sixties. Sometimes
you will find both the ISBN and the LCCN, in that case use the ISBN as it
is supported by all the search sites. If a book only has an LCCN, you can
search for it at The Library of Congress  site.
You will find the LCCN inside the book on the copyright
page. It is normally referred to as The Library of Congress Card Catalog
Number or LCCN. Sometimes it is there but not identified. The LCCN is normally
formatted with a 2 digit year, a hyphen and then the book number. For example
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