ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. The ISBN is "a 10-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally" according to -- who else? -- the U.S. ISBN Agency. The fine folks over at Wikepedia informed me that the ISBN system was started in the U.K. in 1966. Most standard 10-digit ISBNs follow this format:
- a single digit to identify the country of origin
- a three-digit number to identify the publisher
- a five-digit number to identify the exact title
- a single digit checksum character.
I first learned about ISBNs when I worked in a bookstore during college. After looking up so many titles, I actually started to recognize the publisher codes. Fortunately, my brain has now been filled with other, more useful pieces of information.
Two things I didn't know until today: there is a fee to obtain an ISBN. And starting January 1, 2007, ISBNs will expand to 13 digits.