Friday, August 12, 2005


MEMO TO BOOK PEOPLE: ISBNs have 10 digits! If an identifying number has anything other than 10 (or 13 - see below) digits, it is not an ISBN! It's an ISN'TBN!

All ISBNs have a prefix assigned (in the U.S., anyway) by Bowker, two to five digits worth of guts assigned by the publisher, and a check digit at the end, which is derived from the previous nine digits. In 2007, ISBNs will have 13 digits, and will be very similar to EANs. Many publishers have already started including the EAN 978-prefix, followed by the first nine digits of the ISBN, followed by the EAN check digit. (An EAN's check digit should be different than the same book's ISBN check digit, though there might or might not be instances where they are the same by coincidence. Anyone know any examples of this?)

Why the above exposition? Because all this has unfortunately slipped past the entertaining and erudite folks at Bookslut, who this month review a variety of glossy magazine covers, incorporating sub-headings such as:

August 2005
(“The Hot Issue”)
ISBN: 074851082331
So naturally I had to go back to where it all started. Cosmopolitan has supposedly changed since our first meetings in the mid-'80s, but not so much from what I can see. This cover features gorgeous, tiny, young, blonde Kate Hudson...

The content of the review aside, please let me emphasize that if an identifying number has 12 digits, then the number is not an ISBN or an EAN, but is almost certainly a Universal Product Code (UPC). None of these should be mixed up with the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).

Melissa Fischer, if you are reading this, I hope you don't take this as a personal affront, because I have read your other Bookslut articles and they're enjoyable. It's just that sometimes it's hard being a UPC person in an ISBN world. (ps - Are you sure you have the right Vanity Fair cover image?)


Anonymous Melissa Fischer said...

Sorry about that, but my forte is decidedly (and obviously) not associated with numerical systems of any type. In fact, I'm notoriously disorganized, and things like ISBN, UPC, etc. frequently induce hives, sties, and carbuncles to erupt on my person. Additionally, I do the writing, not the pics- that's my editor, and I catch those mistakes, too. I've tried to have them corrected to no avail. Thanks for the schoolin' on the ISBN; I promise I'll try to appease your ISBN-savvy tendencies.

5:00 PM  
Blogger KaneCitizen said...

Thanks for posting; I hope my comments on ISBNs don't send you to the dermatologist. Out of curiosity, what led you to my little sandbox here?

8:59 PM  
Anonymous Melissa Fischer said...

I was led to your ISBN lesson during a heavy session of Googlebation, which may or may not cause trips to the dermatologist; perhaps just hairy palms and blindness.

12:52 PM  
Blogger KaneCitizen said...

OK, well happy Googlebation, and don't feel bad about the number confusion. I wish that Susan Wise Bauer would take the same interest that you have.

10:56 AM  

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