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Transition to the 13-Digit ISBN for U.S. Publishers (1/4)
Transition to the 13-Digit ISBN for U.S. Publishers

There is concern in the U.S. publishing community that the transition from a 10-digit to 13-digit ISBN will be a costly endeavor that must be completed by January 2005. Many publishers have also voiced the opinion that this transition is unnecessary for them, as they have sufficient capacity in their allocated 10-digit ISBN ranges for many years to come R.R. Bowker, as the U.S. ISBN agency and a member of the International Standards Organization Working Group (WG4) that is recommending revisions to the ISBN standard (ISO-2108), believes strongly in the value that 13-digit ISBNs will provide to all publishers. This short paper outlines the recommended timetable for making the transition to the 13-digit ISBN, and the incremental changes that U.S. publishers need to implement in order to handle 13-digit ISBNs in their business processes. Why is January 1, 2005 Important?

That’s the date that the Uniform Code Council has established as the “sunrise date” for U.S. retailers to join the rest of the world in using a full 13-digit EAN in place of the current US 12-digit UPC. Utilizing Bookland EANs, which conform to the general EAN-13 standard for product identifiers, will allow U.S. books to be sold through all channels – both booksellers and general merchants – using a single identifier.

What do U.S. Publishers Need to Do by January 1, 2005?

Publishers do NOT need to change their internal systems by January 1, 2005 to handle 13-digit ISBNs. What they DO need to have in place by this date is the ability to communicate with trading partners that MAY now be using Bookland EAN-13s as part of conforming to the EAN-13 “sunrise” date. It is to be noted that this need to support EAN-13 identifiers with trading partners by this date will exist independent of any decision made by the publishing community on the overall 13-digit ISBN timetable.

Publishers must be able to convert the 10-digit ISBNs utilized within their internal systems to Bookland EAN-13s for transactions with trading partners, such as book distributors and large retailers who will be conforming to the 13-digit EAN standard. Publishers are already doing this same conversion in generating the Bookland EAN for the bar codes on the back covers/jackets.

The conversions between 10-digit ISBNs and Bookland EAN-13s are quite straightforward and are outlined in Appendix 1.

The Implementation date assigning new 13-digit ISBNs to product will be January 1, 2007.

Based on an analyses of new ISBN assignments in the global publishing community, there will be a need to start assigning new 13-digit ISBNs to all existing publishers with the "978" prefix in 2007. National ISBN agencies will begin allocating new blocks of numbers associated with the "979" prefix to all new publishers after January 1, 2007.

Most US publishers feel they have enough unassigned 10-digit ISBN identifiers for their own title production for many years to come, and as a result do not need to make changes to their internal systems to handle longer ISBN identifiers. U.S. Publishers and their national ISBN agency are, however, part of a global publishing community, and need to consider the impact that the January 1, 2007 commencement of use of 13-digit ISBNs with the “979” prefix elsewhere in the world may have on their own internal business processes.