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Quite a number of sellers of used books want to know the meaning of the ISBN codes used to categorize books, CDs and DVDs in the publishing industry.

The ISBN — which is short for “International Standard Book Number” — is a distinct number, usually imprinted right above the UPC bar code on the back cover. It is presented with hyphens throughout.

As a used book seller, this is the number you will use primarily to search for book values online, as well as when you post books for sale online.

The Meaning of the ISBN:

This 10 or 13 digit code will help speed your search for profitable titles to sell, and it is essential to list your products for sale at websites like, and

Bookstores re-order their book inventory using these numbers. Each publisher orders up large blocks of ISBN’s to attach with individual editions of the books that they put out on the market. So the paperback and hardcover versions will be similar, yet distinct, for each publisher.

Without the ISBN there would be chaos. It would be nearly impossible to organize the tens of thousands of new titles and updated versions of previously published works.

The ISBN was introduced about 40 years ago. Initially, ISBN’s were 10 digits long for more than 30 years. On January 1, 2007 the ISBN system switched to a 13-digit format. Now all ISBN’s are 13-digits long. Currently, the new ISBN-13’s start with the numbers “978.” Within a few years, those new ISBN’s will begin with “979.”

The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

The different parts of the ISBN are easy to decipher. Every ISBN consists of ten or thirteen digits and whenever it is printed it is preceded by the letters “ISBN.” The ten-digit number is divided into four parts of variable length, and hyphens separate each part. Sometimes the ISBN ends with an “X.”

The Four Parts of an ISBN:

1. Group/country identifier – this identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers.

2. Publisher identifier – identifying a particular publisher within a group.

3. Title identifier – identifies a particular title or unique edition of a title.

4. Check digit – single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

Every country has its own agency designated which assigns the ISBN’s to publishers and self-publishers of that country. According to the website — Bowker is the company that operates the U.S. ISBN agency — they are not authorized to generate an ISBN for publishers and self-publishers located outside the United States and its territories.

Bowker claims to be the world’s leading provider of bibliographic information and management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries better serve their customers. For more background details, or if you are a self-publisher and you need to order ISBN’s for books you are planning to publish, visit for more information.

While the underlying meaning of the ISBN is a recognized official way to keep track of the millions of books on the market, the ISBN affords you an easy, profitable way to check the current values of used books, CDs and DVDs that you could sell on popular online websites. By carefully typing in the 10 or 13 digit number into the search engine at, you’ll have instant access to how much the typical book buyer is willing to spend for that particular book, and you will be able to make an informed decision within a matter of seconds how much profit you might be able to gain by reselling that book online. Knowing the meaning of the ISBN will then help you make more money selling books online.

Source by Steve Johnson

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