ISBN 10, ISBN 13, and Those Pesky X’s
(or…Get Your Info From Knowledgeable Sources)
A client wrote me sounding a teeny bit worried:
A friend of mine who used to be a bookstore manager mentioned the “X” that shows up after my ISBN number. She said it might be a problem when ordering books for the store because it indicated my book was Print on Demand. Is this a big concern or not?
I love the misinformation authors get from people who seem to know just enough about publishing to be dangerous. (This is what keeps agents in business.) I’m so glad my client asked me the question instead of needlessly worrying about it!
Here’s a bit of basic info about ISBNs:
The United States ISBN Agency is the only source authorized to assign ISBNs to publishers supplying the United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico. There are over 160 other ISBN agencies throughout the world.
A new ISBN is required for each new or revised edition of a book. Once assigned, an ISBN can never be reused.
ISBNs used to be 10-digits. In 2007, they began the changeover to 13 digits. Publishers buy their ISBNs in huge blocks (they get a discount this way) and some books published today have ISBNs purchased before the 2007 changeover, so they have two ISBNs, a 10-digit and a 13-digit. You’ll notice the 13-digit version is simply the 10-digit one preceded by 978, and with a different final digit.
Sometimes an “X” appears—and what it actually means is “10.” Here’s why:
The ISBN has several parts which are all code for something. The final digit is known as the “check digit” and it verifies the ISBN. Check digits go from 0 to 10. In cases where the check digit would be 10, it appears as an X. The X only appears in 10-digit ISBNs.
The five parts of an ISBN are as follows (directly from the Bowker website, ISBN.org):
1. The current ISBN-13 will be prefixed by 978.
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.
So there you have it. Learn something new everyday, I guess. Any more questions about boring topics like ISBNs?
Now, who can tell me what book I took the above ISBN image from?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent