ISBN-13 Transition

August 8, 2005
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is recognized worldwide as the product identification system for the publishing industry and book trade. As such, it functions as a unique 10-digit identifier for every published book, which receives its own ISBN.

However, the standard is changing: from 10 to 13 digits. We want to brief you about the background as well as the Penguin Random House LLC timetable for this transition.

Why are we changing from a 10-digit ISBN?
This change, taking place across the publishing industry and around the world, is being done for two reasons:

  • To allow for the necessary creation of more ISBNs. The international ISBN agency expects to run out of some available 10-digit ranges as early as mid-2007.
  • To conform to a unified international numbering system, called the EAN, which is a unique 13-digit number. The 13-digit ISBN and the EAN will be identical.

When will this change happen?
The book publishing industry will permanently adopt the 13-digit ISBN as of January 1, 2007. To enable a smooth conversion, BISG (Book Industry Study Group) is suggesting a two-year transition period, starting January 1, 2005, and ending December 31, 2006. During this period, many in the publishing supply chain - publishers, wholesalers, retailers, and libraries - will implement a dual numbering system; that is, both the 10-digit ISBN and its corresponding 13-digit ISBN can be used concurrently. This will allow different parts of the supply chain to prepare their systems and processes to handle the 13-digit ISBN at their own pace during this two-year period.

After January 1, 2007, it's expected that the vast majority of the supply chain will transact business with the 13-digit ISBN only.

EAN Bar code impact
There will be no change to the format of the bar code itself; the number encoded in the EAN today will be identical to the new 13-digit ISBN. The human-readable ISBN printed above the bar code will change from the 10-digit ISBN to the 13-digit ISBN. The change will occur as titles are reprinted and/or uppriced.

The software that creates EAN bar codes has been configured to handle the 13-digit ISBN.

UPC Bar code impact
With our industry's move away from UPC bar codes, the ISBN-13 should not have any impact on UPCs. In the unlikely event that we reprint a title with a UPC bar code, the human-readable ISBN printed above the bar code will change from the 10-digit ISBN to the 13-digit ISBN.

Penguin Random House Inc.'s Plans
Our transition efforts are already well underway. We formed an ISBN-13 Committee several years ago to make the business areas aware of this project and its widespread implications. Because the ISBN is so vital to our many processes, the ISBN-13 Committee sought input from the impacted projects/department. Among those that will be affected are:

  • Editorial systems
  • Title production
  • Sales systems
  • Order fulfillment
  • Warehouse management
  • Reporting
  • Returns processing
  • Financial systems
  • Royalty systems
  • Websites

The team's goal is to make this change to a 13-digit ISBN with minimal-to-no-disruption to our normal business routine. To do this, the ISBN-13 Committee has selected a three-day holiday weekend to do the system conversion:

Presidents' Day weekend 2006 (February 18-20).

As of Tuesday, February 21, 2006, we will conduct business in both the 10- and the 13-digit ISBN formats.

In addition, titles with an on-sale of January 1, 2007 and beyond will be assigned only a 13-digit ISBN--and for these titles, all trade is expected to be carried out with this number only.

For many years beyond this transition, books with 10-digit ISBNs printed on them will be in circulation and we must continue to handle inquiries on these titles by both 10- and 13-digit ISBNs. As titles with a 10-digit ISBN are reprinted, a new 13-digit ISBN (the corresponding EAN) will be assigned to them. The need to receive and communicate information related to ordering, billing, returns, and other queries will be supported for both the 10-digit ISBN and the 13-digit ISBN after January 1, 2007.

Click here for Penguin Random House LLC's ISBN-13 FAQ.

Click here for Penguin Random House LLC's external ISBN-13 timeline.

RH.BIZ - Penguin Random House LLC

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