This month's announcement by the International ISBN Agency that the first 979-prefixed ISBN has been assigned to the Paris-based French National ISBN Agency has important ramifications for the U.S. book trade. "Any systems remaining in the U.S. book trade that process only the last 10 digits of an ISBN will have to be updated to avoid the possibility of duplicates of 978- and 979-prefixed ISBNs appearing in our supply chain," said Michael Healy, executive director of the Book Industry Study Group (BISG) and former chairman of the ISO working group that revised the ISBN standard, in a statement.
The 13-digit ISBN launched in January 2007 to increase the capacity of the ISBN system and to bring it in line with the global GTIN identification system widely used to identify most other consumer goods worldwide. To date, 13-digit ISBNs have been prefixed by 978, which allowed systems to contain both 10- and 13-digit ISBNs for all books. However, with the introduction of the 979 prefixes, there can be no 10-digit equivalents for 13-digit ISBNs as this could lead to duplication of numbers and confusion in the supply chain.
The 979 prefixes are being assigned as larger ISBN agencies exhaust their current supply of ISBNs.
Educational resources, created in the run-up to January 1, 2007, are available on the BISG website.