What is an ISBN?
An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) | Why is the ISBN important? | What does the publisher have to consider? | ISBN numbers are assigned to | ISBN numbers are not assigned to | What is the difference between ISBN, ISMN and ISSN numbers? | Location of the ISBN number in the book | ISBN and EAN code | Applying for ISBN in Estonia
An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique combination of 13 digits. The ISBN assigned to a publication cannot be changed, replaced or re-used. The ISBN consists of 13 digits: the 3-digit prefix 978, which identifies book production, is followed by the 9-digit core number and finally the check digit, a single Arabic numeral that validates the whole number combination.
The group identifiers 9949-, 9985- are used in Estonia. The use of ISBNs is regulated by Estonian Standard EVS-ISO 2108:2006 Information and Documentation: International Standard Book Number (ISBN).
An eye-readable EAN book number below the barcode is identical to a 13-digit ISBN (printed with no hyphens). For books issued after 1 January 2007, an eye-readable 13-digit ISBN, each part of which being correctly separated with hyphens, has to be printed above the back cover barcode.
Group identifier (country and language identifier);
A more detailed overview of the changes to the ISBN numbering system is available at Frequently Asked Questions about changes to the ISBN.
- The ISBN number enables quick and precise identification of a publication,
- facilitates ordering and selling books, and
- assists in accounting.
The Estonian ISBN Agency distributes the contact data of Estonian publishers who have joined the ISBN system for the address book “Publishers’ International ISBN Directory” (PIID) (also available on CD-ROM) published by the International ISBN Agency in in London.
In the ISBN system all legal persons and individuals are considered publishers if they are engaged in issuing books irrespective of whether the publications are sold or distributed free of charge. The publishers may be publishing houses, institutions of higher education, associations, societies, municipalities, organisations etc.
Acquiring an ISBN number for a publication is the duty of the publisher, as information about the country and the publisher is encoded in the ISBN number. The publisher is responsible for the correctness of the ISBN. The publisher identifier has to correspond with the name of the publisher printed on the title page.
- serials with a special title
- videos and films for educational purposes
- kits containing a book and an electronic/audiovisual item
- computer software for educational purposes only
- maps, atlases
- Braille books
- micropublications (microfilms and microcards)
- electronic items (diskettes, CD-ROMs, web publications)
- newspapers and periodical publications (ISSN), except for serials with a special title, which get both standard numbers
- printed music (ISMN)commercial material (sale catalogues, price lists, product presentations, folders, instructions, issuing prospectuses etc.)
- wallpapers, posters, postcards, news publications, and leaflets
- theatre, concert and other show programmes
- lists of showpieces without extra text
- college and higher school curricula and plans
- manuscripts of lectures and educational material
- dissertations and their reviews
- calendars, diaries
- forms, questionnaires and colouring books
- normative documents (standards, patents) issued as a separate publication
- sound recordings.
The ISBN is an identification number for books and the ISSN is a code for periodical publications. The ISBN is assigned to all books in one or several volumes or to non-book publications, which are not issued as continuous serials.
Serial publications and book series with special titles are assigned both standard numbers. Every part of a serial publication obtains a new ISBN number; the ISSN number remains the same until changes in the title of the publication are made.
The ISMN is an international music standard number.
The ISBN appears in the lower left side corner of the verso of the title page (at least in 9 pt type), and in the lower section of the outside back cover. The ISBN on the trade bar code must be eye-readable. The ISBN number for audiovisual and electronic items is printed on both the information carrier and its envelope. Each appendix of the book must have its own ISBN. If a book has two or more ISBN numbers, they must be printed all on the verso of the title page. In the case of a multivolume work, the ISBN of the whole work is printed on the verso of the title page; and the ISBN of the particular volume appears below. On the back cover of the book only the ISBN of the given volume is printed.
ISBN and EAN code
At the publisher’s request the ISBN Agency will send by email together with an ISBN also an EAN, or an article barcode file.
Since 1992, the Estonian ISBN Agency at the National Library of Estonia is the only institution in Estonia, which assigns publisher prefixes to publishers. The service is free of charge.
The Estonian ISBN Agency
The National Library of Estonia
Tõnismägi 2, Tallinn 15189
Phone: 630 7372, Fax: 631 1200
E-mail: isbn at nlib dot ee
20 December the library will be closed at 14.
21 December - 1 January the library will be closed.