ISBN Changing to 13-Digits

Over the next few years, a major evolution and convergence will take place in the unique identifiers used to identify books, says ISBN number provider R.R. Bowker. Complete details at the www.isbn.org website.

January 1, 2005 is the date that the Uniform Code Council has established as the “sunrise date” for U.S. retailers to join the rest of the world in using a full 13-digit EAN in place of the current US 12-digit UPC.  Utilizing Bookland EANs, which conform to the general EAN-13 standard for product identifiers, will allow U.S. books to be sold through all channels – both booksellers and general merchants – using a single identifier.

What do U.S. publishers need to do by January 1, 2005?

Publishers do NOT need to change their internal systems by January 1, 2005 to handle 13-digit ISBNs.  What they DO need to have in place by this date is the ability to communicate with trading partners that MAY now be using Bookland EAN-13s as part of conforming to the EAN-13 “sunrise” date. It is to be noted that this need to support EAN-13 identifiers with trading partners by this date will exist independent of any decision made by the publishing community on the overall 13-digit ISBN timetable.

The implementation date assigning new 13-digit ISBNs to product will be January 1, 2007.

Based on an analyses of new ISBN assignments in the global publishing community, there will be a need to start assigning new 13-digit ISBNs to all existing publishers with the "978" prefix in 2007. National ISBN agencies will begin allocating new blocks of numbers associated with the "979" prefix to all new publishers after January 1, 2007.

Most US publishers feel they have enough unassigned 10-digit ISBN identifiers for their own title production for many years to come, and as a result do not need to make changes to their internal systems to handle longer ISBN identifiers. U.S. Publishers and their national ISBN agency are, however, part of a global publishing community, and need to consider the impact that the January 1, 2007 commencement of use of 13-digit ISBNs with the “979” prefix elsewhere in the world may have on their own internal business processes.

What exactly is changing?

Not only is the structure of the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) changing, over the next few years a major evolution will take place with regard to the unique identifiers for both books and other products sold by both booksellers and other retailers in North America:

Developed in the late 1960s, ISBN is an international standard administered by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). ISO requires a review (and possible revision) of its standards every five years. As part of the current review and revision, the ISBN will be expanded from a 10-digit to a 13-digit number effective January 1, 2007.


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