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What’s with ISBNs?

Some of our readers were wondering how they might go about getting an ISBN. And what is it, anyway? Why is it important?

An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. Up until the end of 2006 it was a 10 digit number, but from 1 January 2007 all ISBN numbers are now 13 digits long.

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It is used by publishers, booksellers and libraries, for ordering, listing and stock control purposes. It enables them to identify a particular Publisher and allows the Publisher to identify a specific edition of a specific title in a specific format within their output.

In the past, ISBN numbers were 10 digits long but a new global standard, using 13 digits, has now been introduced. Under the new system which started on 1 January 2007, the 13 digits are always divided into five parts, separated by spaces or hyphens.

There is no legal requirement in the UK or Republic of Ireland for an ISBN and it conveys no form of legal or copyright protection. It is a product identification number. If you wish to sell your publication through major bookselling chains, or internet booksellers, they will require you to have an ISBN to assist their internal processing and ordering systems.

The ISBN also provides access to Bibliographic Databases such as BookData Online, which are organised using ISBNs as references. These databases are used by booksellers and libraries to provide information for customers. The ISBN therefore provides access to additional marketing tools which could help sales of your product.

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