Since the book I am working on will be published in two different countries, it has two ISBN. The tricky question here is this: must both the ISBN barcode be placed onto the back cover of the book? One of the ISBN is from U.S and seems like it is a must to have a barcode on the cover. But having two barcodes is just a little confusing. Please give some advice. Thanks!

  • 3
    Why do you need two ISBNs to publish the same book in two countries? If you're using two different publishers, you need two ISBNs, one for each publisher. If you are publishing different versions in each country--different text, different language, different trim size, different format (e.g. trade paperback vs mass market paperback)--you need two ISBNs, one for each version. Otherwise, why do you need two ISBNs? Jul 16, 2014 at 5:54
  • 1
    ISBN means International Standard Book Number. The ISBN consists of a number for the country that the publisher is registered in, a number for the publisher (among all the other publishers in that country), and a number for the book (by that publisher). A publisher publishing internationally still is the same publisher, so the number for the country and publishing house do not change. Since the book is also the same, that number does not change either. So: one single ISBN for one individual book.
    – user5645
    Jul 16, 2014 at 9:49
  • Have you been told you'll need two ISBNs, or are you assuming that different countries = different ISBNs? If you've been told this, can you edit to add some info about who told you (publisher? editor? some guy at Starbucks? :-) ) and, if you know, the reason. Generally, as the others said, it's one book + one ISBN. Jul 16, 2014 at 14:19
  • What about bilingual books? One book with both English and Spanish translation within it?
    – user23476
    Feb 10, 2017 at 22:47

2 Answers 2


I agree with what the commenters have already said (and think some of them should be turned into answers), so assume this is building upon their replies. As they said, you usually only have one ISBN per book, only changing ISBNs if something substantial changes about the book. If the publisher changes, if the size changes, or if it changes from hardcover to paperback to ebook, then you'd get a new ISBN each time. Each ISBN comes with its own barcode.

Now, there's a few different points that might be leading to this confusion for you.

1) There are two different kinds of ISBNs. Grab a book published around 2006 and flip to the inside front cover. You'll likely see two ISBNs, one with 10 digits (beginning with 0) and one with 13 digits (beginning with 978). This is because the organization that standardizes ISBNs begun with a 10-digit ISBN and then switched to a 13-digit one in 2007, but not all publishers have transitioned to only using the 13-digit one.

HP7 hardcover Behold my extremely terrible photography. This book is a first-edition hardcover copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published in 2007. Note the two ISBNs.

Although two ISBNs are listed, both refer to the same book. Consider them to be different versions of the same number, in the way that "1+1" and "2" are different versions of the same number. Also note that there is only one barcode on the back of the book.

2) Many publishers will print different editions of their books for the different countries they print in, with translations for each language. Each edition will usually have different cover art to distinguish it, and is given different ISBNs if they're in different languages. Patrick Rothfuss's books have been published in multiple languages and so each new language edition has a new ISBN.

However, note that each book is complete in and of itself. Each book will only have one ISBN. Therefore, if your book needs to be published in two different languages, each language will have its own ISBN, but one book would only have one ISBN on the front cover. It wouldn't make any sense to put the ISBN referring to the French edition and the ISBN referring to the English edition on the English book. Thus, the English book would only have one ISBN: the one referring specifically to that translation of the book.


I have seen many times a sticker ISBN added over the original one for different countries a bit like the replica stick-on some chain bookstores use.

I have also often seen it in US prints sold in the UK and Europe with the local denomination. I gather that's what you meant, two different currencies needing two ISBNs.

In your case the U.S. publisher will have an ISBN print as part of the cover, and the other country England, or India for instance will have a sticker covering it.

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