Is the ISBN the same as the ISBN Barcode or are these 2 different things? I want to publish my own books, so need some clarification. Which one will help me save on my publishing cost?

  • How does ISBN have anything to do with publishing cost?
    – user5645
    Dec 22, 2013 at 16:13
  • Someone told me that a book requires a ISBN and also requires a ISBN Barcode, so was just wanted to get clarification on these things.
    – rconnor
    Dec 24, 2013 at 10:26
  • 4
    A book does not need an ISBN. ISBN are used by booksellers, so if you want to sell through regular book shops or online booksellers like Amazon, you need an ISBN, but many books are published without an ISBN and sold through other channels (e.g. directly from the author's website or locally through museum stores) or not sold at all but given away as presents, advertising, propaganda etc. Often art catalogues don't have ISBN, because they don't sell through Amazon etc. Basically the ISBN has the same function as the barcode and EAN number of any other product (from chocolate to tooth paste).
    – user5645
    Dec 24, 2013 at 13:46

4 Answers 4


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(picture can be found here: dLSoft)

978-3-16-148410-0 is the ISBN (number).

The vertical strokes below that number are the barcode (which represents the number above).

  • 3
    You must apply for an ISBN. The barcode is then automatically generated. Most people pay the publisher a small fee to get an ISBN for their book (even if it's an ebook). You can do this yourself, but it's maybe not worth your time, and anyway the ISBN is edition-specific and therefore publisher-specific. Some publishers charge extra for the corresponding barcode. That's a ripoff, since generating the barcode costs them nothing. But if the publishing deal is otherwise satisfying, don't get hung up on it. ("Don't sweat the small stuff.")
    – dmm
    Dec 20, 2013 at 16:02
  • 2

ISBN or International Standard Book Number is a unique number assigned to a book. It is issued by a central ISBN agency in your country. In USA, you can obtain your ISBN numbers from the Bowker Agency.

So the basic difference between 2 is just of the form. As ISBN is just a Number and ISBN Barcode is a Barcode.

ISBN Barcode is a unique commercial book identifier barcode. It is encoded in an EAN-13 format barcode with a Price Supplemental barcode.

enter image description here

  1. ISBN Code
  2. Human Readable Text (optional)
  3. Pricing Supplemental Code

This 2-part barcode is required by traditional book sellers such as Barnes & Nobles, Books-a-Million, and others.


The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique.

ISBN Wikipedia

ISBN number is assigned to a book for each variation and edition except re printings.

ISBN barcode (13 digits) = Unique country code(3 digits) + ISBN number(10 digits)

Last digit is Check digit that is a form of redundancy check used for error detection. In general ISBN barcode gives different check digit from the corresponding 10 digits ISBN number as shown in attached picture.


Older ISBN numbers are ten digits long and divided into four fields, the country/language code, the publisher code, the book code, and the check digit. they were printed in ocr-a (a font designed for machine reading). Newer isbn numbers are actually ean numbers with ean checksums and use ean barcodes, with isbn numbers having 2 ean country codes (978 being used as the prefix for legacy isbn numbers, with the checksum recalculated).

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