Musings from Tanya, UAP Intern

What in the World is an ISBN?

We’ve all seen them on the back of books: that long, mysterious number located above the barcode. ISBN. What is that? What does it even mean?ISBNs

Well, it’s a very simple equation. Just take the average number of times that you turn a page in a book divided by the number of times you will reference the book in everyday conversions plus the amount of copies you will buy your mother all to the power of 5. You remember BEDMAS, right?

Okay… I’m pulling your leg.

Then, what is an ISBN? ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and it is commonly referred to as the book identifier. So, it’s like a fingerprint for books! Only, it’s not just books that get one. Each edition, or variation, of the original book (ebooks, audiobooks, paperback, etc.) gets its own distinct number. The ISBN program is run by Library and Archives Canada.

The number itself is 13 digits long and is divided into 5 main parts.

1.     Prefix element

2.     Registration group element (usually geographic)

3.     Registrant element (identifies the publisher)

4.     Publication element (the edition or format of the title)

5.     Check digit

While the ISBN might seem like “just a number”, it’s a lot more than that and there are lots of people working behind the scenes with that number to ensure that everything runs smoothly. So, next time you come across that 13-digit monster on the back of your prized copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, give it a high five in recognition of all the information, or metadata, that it offers.

What is metadata? Stay tuned…!