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For 30 years I have been helping organisations and individuals with their Barcode and Auto ID issues but now I have decided it is time to move on and retire from being the Barcode Man.

I will continue to respond to emails from existing customers about their earlier purchases, their special programming configurations and warranty issues but I regret I cannot help with new purchases or issues nor recommend alternative products or sources.

Lee Allen, The Barcode Man. February 2010

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Since 1 January 2007 new books carry a 13-digit number (ISBN-13) instead of a 10 digit number (ISBN-10) used hitherto. Many scanners supplied before 2007 can easily be configured to read the old numbers as as if they were ISBN-13 numbers. Thus avoiding the need to purchase new scanners before reaching the end of their service life.

We hope the information below will help clarify matters, but feel free to contact us if you are at all unsure.

Info for Librarians

Libraries form a major and important part of our customer base and we have always sought to support you. If you purchased your barcode scanner from us and now wish to read ISBN-10 barcodes as if they were ISBN-13 we can arrange this free of charge.


What is the difference between ISBN-10 and ISBN-13?

ISBN-10 consists of 9 digits suffixed with 1 extra calculated check digit. ISBN-13 consists of 12 digits suffixed with 1 extra calculated check digit.

How will barcode scanning be affected by new ISBN-13?

Both ISBN-13 and ISBN-10 numbers are encoded into barcodes using the standard 13 digit barcode format EAN 13. Configuring your barcode scanner to read the ISBN-13 numbers from the EAN 13 barcode will actually be more straightforward than for ISBN-10. This is because the ISBN-13 number is identical to the EAN 13 number, whereas the the ISBN-10 number is not. Also, no recalculation of the check digit is needed.

What is barcode format EAN-13?

EAN-13 is a standard barcode format consisting of 13 digits (12 digits plus 1 suffixed calculated check digit) used in the retail industry. The individual numbers allocated for the book industry have always commenced with product code 978.

How were ISBN-10 numbers (10 digits) encoded to EAN 13 barcode format (13 digits)?

The product code prefix of 978 was added to the 10 digit ISBN number and the check digit was re-calculated to include those extra 3 digits.

How are barcode scanners configured to read the barcodes on ISBN-10 books?

Scanners have been specially configured to convert any EAN 13 barcode format number starting with the prefix 978 to the 10 digit ISBN code. Scanners did this by stripping off the 978 prefix and then recalulating the check digit.

e.g. EAN-13 barcode number 9780751303667 becomes ISBN-10 number 0-7513-0366-6

How will barcode scanners be configured to read the new ISBN-13 numbers?

The new 1SBN-13 (13 digits) number is encoded into EAN 13 (also 13 digits) format with no change of digits and no check digit re-calculation. Thus the EAN 13 number is identical to the ISBN-13 number (except the human readable ISBN-13 number includes hyphens). Barcode scanners will therefore need no special configuration to read the EAN 13 code as the correct ISBN-13 number.

e.g. EAN-13 number 9781234567894 simply becomes ISBN-13 number 978-123456-789-4

How will the change affect my library system software?

Librarians whose stock includes books acquired prior to 1 January 2007 will face the potential problem of having a database with ISBNs of different lengths. A librarian with a book carrying a 10-digit ISBN will not know if the database record has a 10-digit or 13-digit number. This will need to be resolved in the library system software.

What action should I take concerning my barcode scanner?

Your barcode scanner can either be configured to convert the EAN 13 barcode to ISBN-10 or to ISBN-13. Depending on how your library system software is handling the changeover, there may come a need for you to have your existing barcode scanner reconfigured to send 13 digits to your system instead of 10.

How can I convert my scanner free of charge to read ISBN-13?

When you buy a Barcode Scanner from us it comes with support for life. There is no time limit so even if you have had your scanners for 5-10 years or more and you wish to convert it to read the old 10 digit barcodes exactly as if they were ISBN-13 contact us and we will arrange it free of charge.

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