International Standard Book Number

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The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique[1][2] numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, now Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin,[3] for the booksellers and stationers W.H. Smith and others in 1966.[4]

The 10-digit ISBN format was developed by the International Organization for Standardization and was published in 1970 as international standard ISO 2108.[4] (However, the 9-digit SBN code was used in the United Kingdom until 1974.) Currently, the ISO’s TC 46/SC 9 is responsible for the ISBN. The ISO on-line facility only refers back to 1978.[5]

Since 1 January 2007, ISBNs have contained 13 digits, a format that is compatible with Bookland EAN-13s.[6]

Occasionally, a book may appear without a printed ISBN if it is printed privately or the author does not follow the usual ISBN procedure; however, this is usually later rectified.[7][dubious ]

A similar numeric identifier, the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), identifies periodical publications such as magazines.


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