Number Please

Do you know the secret code behind a book’s ISBN?

The ISBN on a book without a bar code on the back cover has long been an annoyance to me. I tend to transpose the numbers when I’m adding them to the computer program in our library. I really didn’t care much about the numbers as long as I got them into the computer correctly. Then along came a Q & A in the local paper explaining the meaning of a book’s ISBN. Lo and behold, their secret code was unlocked for me!

Many of you probably know the code behind the numbers, but for those of us who are ISBN challenged, let me tell you what I found out.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. Beginning in 2007, the ISBN has been a 13-digit number. For 30 years previous to that, it was a 10-digit number. Every book has a distinct number that identifies one title or an edition of a title from one particular publisher. These numbers can be used to search or order a book. There are five parts to an ISBN, and each of the parts is separated by a hyphen. It begins with a standard number, 978. The next part signifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers. The code is 0 for the United States. That is followed by numbers that identify the publisher within a group. The fourth part identifies a particular title or an edition of a title. The last part of the ISBN is a single digit that’s known as a check digit. Its purpose is to validate the ISBN.    

Okay, you may not be interested in cracking the ISBN secret code, but think of the new information you’ve just packed away into the recesses of your brain. Aren’t you glad you have all this knowledge?

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