G.K. Questions


Dear friends, you must have seen the some strange lengthy number written as ISBN most probably at the back cover of a book. Do you know its significance? Let us discuss:

ISBN is an abbreviation of “International Standard Book Number”. ISBNs used to be of  10 digits in length up to the end of December 2006, but since January 1st, 2007 they have consisted of 13 digits. The number is determined using a specific mathematical formula and includes a check digit to validate it.  It is used by publishers for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. ISBNs are assigned to text-based monographic publications like books and certain types of related products that are available to the public. The ISBN identifies the publisher as well as the specific title, edition and format.

Any publication that does not have a defined end like periodicals, journals or newspaper is not assigned an ISBN.

ISBN consists of 5 parts with each section being separated by spaces or hyphens.

  • Prefix element – currently this can only be either 978 or 979 (it is always 3 digits).
  • Registration group element – this identifies the particular country, geographical region, or language area participating in the ISBN system. This element may be between 1 and 5 digits in length. For example 81 is for India.
  • Registrant element – this identifies the particular publisher or imprint.
  • Publication element – this identifies the particular edition and format of a specific title.
  • Check digit – this is always the final single digit that mathematically validates the rest of the number.
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