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The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique identifier for books, essential for their distribution and sales. In 2007, the ISBN system transitioned from a 10-digit format to a 13-digit format. This change was made to align with the European Article Number (EAN), a universal product code for books. In this blog post, you will learn the ISBN converter method to convert an ISBN-10 to an ISBN-13 and Vice Versa.

Why the Change?

The transition from ISBN-10 to ISBN-13 was primarily driven by the need to prevent the exhaustion of new ISBNs in the near future. The 13-digit format allows for a significantly larger number of unique ISBNs. Additionally, the change was made to integrate the ISBN system into the broader EAN product numbering system, which also uses 13 digits for a wide range of goods.

The Conversion Process: ISBN-10 to an ISBN-13

Converting an ISBN-10 to an ISBN-13 is a straightforward process. Here are the steps:

  1. Prefix Addition: Start by adding the prefix ‘978’ to the start of the ISBN-10. The ‘978’ prefix is standard for all ISBN-13s converted from ISBN-10s.
  2. Remove the Old Check Digit: The check digit is the last digit in the ISBN. In an ISBN-10, this is the 10th digit. Remove this digit, as a new check digit will be calculated for the ISBN-13.
  3. Calculate the New Check Digit: The check digit for an ISBN-13 is calculated differently from an ISBN-10. It involves a modulo 10 system where the first digit is multiplied by 1, the second by 3, the third by 1, the fourth by 3, and so on. All solutions are then added together, and the check digit is added last to make the total a multiple of 10.

Let’s start with an example: 0-596-52068-9 (A ISBN-10 code)

Step 1: Add ISBN Prefix 978 to the beginning of ISBN-10

Now ISBN will look like: 978-0-596-52068-9

Step 2: Remove the last one digit from the ISBN. That last digit is a check digit of ISBN and as we are converting ISBN-10 to ISBN-13, We need to remove the previous check digit and recalculate ISBN to find a new check digit based on ISBN-13.

ISBN-13 without check digit: 978-0-596-52068

Let’s calculate:

ISBN Digit978059652068
Weight131313131313
Multiply (Digit X Weight)9218052761520624

Sum: 9 + 21 + 8 + 0 + 5 + 27 + 6 + 15 + 2 + 0 + 6 + 24 = 123

123 divided by 10 = 12 remainder 3
The check digit is 10 – 3 = 7

Final ISBN-13: 978-0-596-52068-7

ISBN-13 to an ISBN-10

ISBN-13 to an ISBN-10 conversion is opposite and requires a different formula to calculate the check digit.

Step 1: Remove the ISBN prefix 978 and the last digit.

ISBN-10 without check digit: 0-596-52068

Let’s calculate:

ISBN Digit059652068
Weight1098765432
Multiply (Digit X Weight)0457242301001816

Sum: 0 + 45 + 72 + 42 + 30 + 10 +0 + 18 + 16 = 233

233 divided by 11 gives a remainder of 2.
The check digit is 11 – 2 = 9

Final ISBN-10: 0-596-52068-9

Final Thought

The conversion from ISBN-10 to ISBN-13 is crucial for the continued distribution and sale of books, especially those published before 2007. The 13-digit ISBN is now the standard used by publishers, bookstores, libraries, and more. It plays a significant role in ordering, sales reporting, and inventory control.

Understanding the conversion process from ISBN-10 to ISBN-13 is essential for anyone involved in the publishing process. It ensures the correct identification of a book and its specific edition, facilitating efficient distribution and sales.

In the modern book publishing process you don’t have to worry about ISBN-10 as it is an outdated version of ISBN format. But, It is still in use by book retailers and publishing platforms. Must book retailers and publishing platforms accept ISBN-13 only, they convert ISBN-13 to ISBN-10 to display both version of ISBN together on the book listing page.

Beside ISBN prefix 978, 979 is the latest ISBN prefix introduced in 2022 by US ISBN Agency Bowker. 978 ISBN prefix is backward convertible, that means you can convert the ISBN-13 with prefix 978 to ISBN-10, but this is not possible with 979 ISBN prefix. If you use the 979 prefix ISBN-13 to publish your book, then your book listing page will have only one version of ISBN.

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