The 13-Digit ISBN Is on Its Way!

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The retailing industry in the U.S. and Canada is in the process of aligning itself with the rest of the world in a standard approach to product identification. The Uniform Code Council (UCC) has established January 1, 2005, as 2005 Sunrise, the date for general retailing in the U.S. and Canada to have the capability to scan, store, and process not only the 12-digit UPC code currently in use, but also the EAN/UCC 13-symbol code used in the rest of the world. Retailers are also being urged to ensure that their systems can deal with a EAN/UCC 14-symbol code, which includes an additional digit to indicate packaging level.

The major corporate bookstore chains and mass merchandisers, along with many large publishers and wholesalers, are expected to upgrade their systems and start using the new product ID early in 2005.

The book industry has decided to establish a two-year transition period with January 1, 2007 as the date when existing 10-digit ISBNs will be restated as 13-digit ISBNs. This will be accomplished by dropping the present check digit, prefixing the 9-digit core with '978', and then adding a new check digit. The number currently represented by the Bookland EAN bar code will become the actual ISBN. All ISBNs assigned after that time will be 13 digits in length.

The U.S. and Canadian ISBN agencies will continue to issue 13-digit ISBNs with the leading digits '978' as long as there are available numbers in a block of numbers. When all numbers in a given '978' block are assigned, new blocks with the 13-digit ISBN number beginning with '979' will be assigned.

ABA is continuing to dialogue on behalf of independent booksellers with the POS vendors to ensure that the appropriate upgrades to handle the new ISBN system are ready well before January 1, 2007. ABA members are encouraged to contact their own POS vendors to determine how the vendors are proceeding with the required upgrades and what will be needed for the bookstore's own system.

ABA actively participates in the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and its standards division, Book Industry Standards and Communications (BISAC), which represent the U.S. book industry in the ISBN standards process. BTW will provide ABA members with periodic updates on significant developments.