ISBN Barcode Specifications
by Ron Kurtus (9 January 2013)
An ISBN barcode is a coded series of vertical lines placed on the lower right area of the back of a book cover. It is used as a book identifier, giving country, publisher and price information, such that it can be scanned in by the book seller at the point of purchase.
Thus, it is important that the barcode be of high quality and according to standardized specifications to assure it can be is correctly scanned. You should verify the barcode image can be correctly scanned in and avoid anything that will prevent proper scanning.
If you primarly plan to sell your books online, a barcode is not required, but it gives your book a professional look. Many independent publishers opt for online sales. If your book will be sold in stores or you think it will become a best-seller, you should have a professional create and verify your barcodes.
Questions you may have include:
- What are the specifications for barcode placement?
- How do you verify barcode is scannable?
- What should a self-publisher do about barcodes?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Placement of barcode
The barcode should be placed on the back cover of your book, at the lower right corner.
Typically, you should leave a 3.625" x 1.25" area that is free of any text or images for the its placement. The barcode should be printed with black ink on a white background.
There must be 1/4-inch of white space on the left and right sides of your barcode.
Usually, barcodes are printed on the back cover, although using barcode labels is acceptable.
Ensuring proper scanning
You should verify your barcode scans in correctly. This is especially true if your books will receive mass distribution to numerous bookstores.
Reasons barcode does not scan
Several things can cause your barcode not to scan, making you liable for non-compliance charges. Examples include:
- Altering the size or magnification of a barcode
- Truncating the bar code
- Improper shipping methods that allow barcode to get damaged during transit
- Protective packaging of book obscures the barcode
Bar codes that are guaranteed to scan and have been checked with a full American National Standard Institute (ANSI) certified verifier. This device checks all the parameters that contribute to a high-grade bar code.
Note: Having your bar code scanned by the local bookstore is not equivalent to having it verified.
Use bar code manufacturer
While a full ANSI verifier can be purchased, for most vendors it is more cost-effective to work with a bar code manufacturer that guarantees their work. A scanner like those used in a bookstore does not measure all of the requisite characteristics.
Printing process can create defects
If you are able to print your own bar codes, remember that any printing process can create defects that reduce bar code performance.
Barcodes and self-publishers
Most self-publishers have great difficulty getting their books into major bookstores and thus depend on selling them online through such outlets as Amazon.com or Barnes&Noble.com. In such a case, an ISBN barcode may just be "window dressing" to make the book look professional but yet have little practical value.
At the very least, it is worthwhile to include a barcode on your back cover.
An ISBN barcode is used as a book identifier, such that it can be scanned in by the book seller at the point of purchase. It should be placed on the lower right area of the back of a book cover.
It is important that the barcode be of high quality and according to standardized specifications to assure it can be is correctly scanned.
If you primarily plan to sell your books online, a barcode is not required, but it gives your book a professional look.
Follow the requirements for quality
Resources and references
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ISBN Barcode Specifications