AddMe - Search Engine Optimization Book Printing Forum: 13-digit ISBN Number Creates Printing Opportunities

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

13-digit ISBN Number Creates Printing Opportunities

What event is one of the greatest opportunities for a traditional printer to get work? When a Zip Code or area code changes in a city. Why? Because it means that customers in the effected area will reprint business cards, letterhead, envelopes, Rolodex cards and invoices. A Zip Code or area code change means thousands of dollars to local printers.

What is the book printing world equivalent of a Zip Code or area code change? Any change in the ISBN numbering system for books. The International ISBN agency is making such a change between now and January 2007. All 10-digit ISBN numbers will be changed to a 13-digit ISBN number. This is the first change to ISBN numbers since they were first introduced in the 1970s.

Publishers will need to recalculate all their ISBNs and accommodate the new number format in their systems. This will include ISBNs for all titles in print, probably all or most out of print titles for which orders or other enquiries might be received, and for all outstanding unallocated ISBNs supplied by local agencies.

The International ISBN Agency says, “Since publishers will inevitably be holding stock for many years to come, they may feel that it would be sensible to move towards printing the 13-digit ISBN on their books as soon as possible…”

The opportunity for book printers is enormous. All existing books—even out-of-print books—are required to carry the new 13-digit ISBN number. That means these books will need to be reprinted. The result will be millions of dollars of printing.

One may ask, “can a publisher put a sticker on a book with the new ISBN number instead of reprinting?” The answer is yes, but the sticker will not be as professional looking or as durable as a reprinted cover or dust jacket. And printing the labels means more printing for some printer, even in the event a publisher goes the inexpensive route.

The International ISBN Agency has printed guidelines for the transition to 13-digit ISBN numbers. These guidelines are valuable to the publishers you serve. If you want a copy of the guidelines, please e-mail me at: and I will send them to you by e-mail.


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