Study Group

October 1, 2003
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Study Group Approves 13-Digit

ISBN Barcode as Single Identifier

NEW YORK, NY/9/18/03—The Book Industry Study Group has approved a new policy that will require a 13-digit Bookland EAN bar code as the sole bar code to be printed or stickered on books and book-related products, effective January 1, 2005. The group also backed the expansion of ISBNs from 10 digits to 13 by January 1, 2007.

The 13-digit standard is designed to simplify the way publishers communicate electronically with wholesalers, distributors and booksellers and support industries throughout the world. Many industries abroad already use EAN bar codes for an array of products.

The Booklan EAN, already in use on hardcovers and trade paperbacks, will also replace the 12-digit UPC bar code printed on the back cover of all mass market titles. The UPC is used primarily by mass market outlets such as drug and grocery stores. For mass market titles the EAN has typically been printed on the inside cover of titles, but having two bar codes on a book can be confusing to checkout workers in stores.

The new process will be slowly phased in to make it easier on the industry. The first phase of conversion involves communicating the change to all partners. The longer-term step requires companies to adjust internal systems to reflect the new 13-digit ISBNs. Many elements are already in use. The familiar Bookland EAN bar codes on books include a 13-digit number at the bottom that is the Bookland EAN, essentially a 13-digit ISBN, embracing the current 10-digit ISBN plus a 978 prefix. (The last digit, a check digit, varies between the two types of numbers.) Eventually, another prefix—979—will be added.

The new standards should enable U.S. books to be sold in all channels using a variety of technology.

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