ISBN – International Standard Book Number

Definition updated on November 2023

What is an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and how does it uniquely identify books?

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique identifier for books, intended to simplify the distribution and purchase of books internationally. It's a 10 or 13-digit number (older books may have the 10-digit format, while newer ones follow the 13-digit format) that is specific to one edition of a book. For instance, a paperback and hardcover version of the same title will have different ISBNs. This number is typically found on the back cover, near the barcode, and on the book's copyright page. The ISBN system helps retailers, libraries, universities, and readers ensure they're getting the correct title and edition of a book. While the ISBN might seem unrelated to sneaker reselling at first glance, it's an example of how standardized identification systems work. In the world of sneaker reselling, similar identification methods, like the GTIN, are used to authenticate and manage inventory. So, just as a bookstore might reference an ISBN to order a specific book edition, a sneaker reseller would use a GTIN to verify a particular sneaker model and colorway. Understanding the concept behind ISBN can offer insights into the importance of standardized identification in various industries.

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