What Is an ISBN Bar Code Actually For?

Shipbuilder
10th January 2012, 19:26
I recently decided to get an ISBN number for my new book. I found a free website that would generate a bar code and entered into it a known ISBN number of an already published book and got a scan. The bars all looked identical, but when I took it to the local library and asked them to check it on their scanner, nothing showed up! I then asked them to scan the bar code on the actual book and that didn't work either! They then told me that the libraries put their own bar codes on books, the same as shops, and that was probably the reason why it didn't work! The actual number came up OK when typed in manually!

So - what is the reason for a bar code if libraries or bookshops can't get them to scan anyway?

Bob

ssr481
10th January 2012, 19:51
Go here..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Standard_Book_Number

Additionally, to get an ISBN for a book you're writing - in order to sell the book in stores, etc. - you'd need to get it through the official issuer in your country. Here in the Colonies.. er.. States, it's $125 per number.

Shipbuilder
10th January 2012, 21:12
I know what the ISBN number is for. I am just wondering what on Earth the bar code is for if it can't be scanned by libararies or bookshops!

Bob

trotterdotpom
10th January 2012, 23:03
Isn't it something to do with the Antichrist ... mark of the Beast and all that?

John T

Doug Shaw
10th January 2012, 23:33
I found a free website that would generate a bar code and entered into it a known ISBN number of an already published book and got a scan.Bob, I've never had a problem with ISBN bar codes. However, I've always obtained them from the official ISBN agency. Bar codes can be obtained in several sizes to suit books of differing dimensions, and there are some specific requirements regarding placement. I certainly wouldn't obtain one from an unauthorised source; though creating a bar code image is not complicated.

Publishers add their own bar code images, which are, or at least should be, readable by most bar-code readers, including those in libraries and bookshops. Bar-coding is simple technology used in numerous fields, though there are different coding systems. If the bar-code image is incorrectly placed or formatted, it can result in some readers failing to correctly read its data.

They then told me that the libraries put their own bar codes on books, the same as shops, and that was probably the reason why it didn't work!This is incorrect, at least to a point. The publisher places the original ISBN bar-code image on the book before it goes to the printer. Libraries and shops cannot change that bar-code. (Simple logic if you think about it.) However, they can and often do add their own bar-codes for cataloguing and ordering purposes. They do this by means of stickers, which they sometimes (though rarely) place over the original ISBN bar code. However, these additional codes are used internally within organisations in which ordering (from publishers and distributors) is done centrally. The purchasing department in such organisations will use ISBNs.


Regards
Doug

Hamish Mackintosh
11th January 2012, 00:40
I have a bar code app on my smart phone, very handy, scan the soup, and it tells me whats in it, and what price I should be paying for it

John Dryden
11th January 2012, 00:53
I have a bar code app on my smart phone, very handy, scan the soup, and it tells me whats in it, and what price I should be paying for it

Hamish you,ve been conned!Two reasons why;read the label on the packaging and then check the price near to it.

Shipbuilder
11th January 2012, 07:16
Doug,

I haven't had a problem with getting them at all. I applied to the UK ISBN agency and paid for ten of them yesterday.

Whilst I am waiting for them, I found a website that would generate a bar code for me.

Just to test it, I entered a number of a book that was already published and the bar code that the internet website generated looked identical to the one on the book.

I took it to the library to check it and their scanner could not find the book"

I then gave them the actual book and they scanned the ISBN bar code on it and it couldn't find that either!

But if they entered the actual number manually, it did find it!

-----------------------

I thought that was the whole point of the bar code - so that a library or a bookshop could scan it and find it. Apparently not - the actual number must be entered manually before it can be found.

Bob

Doug Shaw
12th January 2012, 03:59
I thought that was the whole point of the bar code - so that a library or a bookshop could scan it and find it. Apparently not - the actual number must be entered manually before it can be found.

Bob

What you believed to be true is correct. In theory, you should be able to go into a library and most major book stores in any of the 166 countries that are signatories to the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) Agreement, scan a book’s barcode and bring up its details.

The format and coding of the ISBN barcode, like the ISBN itself, are standardised under the agreement.

There are, though, several points to note regarding ISBN barcodes.
1. Distortion of the barcode at pixel level can render a barcode unreadable. This distortion is likely to be invisible to the eye.
2. Extreme care is needed when placing an ISBN barcode on a cover image, and converting a cover image containing a barcode from one format to another can distort the barcode image sufficiently to render the barcode unreadable. Depending on the barcode image format, for example jpeg and tiff, re-sizing the image just a small amount can result in anti-aliasing, which may also render the image un-readable. (To be re-sizable, a barcode should preferable be in vector format.)
3. Errors can occur during the printing process and here again the errors may be at pixel level.
4. Faults can occur in individual barcode scanners.

Bob, there are many problems that can render an ISBN barcode unreadable. However, the fact is that under the ISBN Agreement barcodes are designed to be readable in appropriate scanners in all countries that are signatories to the agreement. The book you scanned was in the system, as shown by the fact that you found its details when the ISBN was entered manually. The barcode scanner is nothing more than a short-cut method of entering the same data (the ISBN) into the computer to enhance productivity. Due to some fault, which might have been with the barcode or the scanner, the scanner couldn’t read the ISBN data. (I would discount the Internet test sheet you used, because there are too many variables to use it as a reliable test (even if it used the correct coding for ISBNs).

The fact that barcodes and barcode scanners are fallible is recognised, and for that reason ISBN barcodes display the ISBN in numerals for ease of manual entry in the event that a scan fails.

Regards
Doug

Shipbuilder
12th January 2012, 09:45
Doug,
Thanks for that explanation. Although I can see the use of the ISBN number itself, it would appear that the actual bar code is of little use. At the library, they told me they never bother scanning them because they just don't work. The best method is to type in the number.

When I get my numbers, I will include a bar code as I have found a website that can make them up, but will also make sure the actual number is there as well because it seems that is the only reliable reference!.

I have yet to see what help an actual number will be. Of the first 50books, 20 have now sold, but it is slowing down. The ISBN Agency told me it was OK to add the number in the form of a sticker when I get it, as the books already exist, but it will take maybe 5 weeks before it gets into the system. Pity one has to purchase 10 numbers minimum, but having done so, the next nine are all settled with no further payments.

I find this all very interesting and making a change from my normal routine that has got into a bit of a rut lately.

Bob

Anyway, I find it much

Doug Shaw
13th January 2012, 23:18
Bob

I sincerely apologise if I’ve given you the wrong impression. The barcode system is effective. Our regional and local libraries have barcode scanners for use by library patrons. These are highly efficient and rarely fail to scan a barcode correctly. Our local bookshop also uses a barcode scanner, but it is hand-held and is less accurate than those in the libraries.

The information I gave in my last post was intended in part to provide an explanation of why scans sometimes fail; it was not intended to convey the impression that the barcode system is useless. The ISBN barcode system is as efficient as any other barcode system, such as those found in supermarkets. All barcode systems are subject to glitches, but generally their accuracy is close to 100%.

Accuracy depends to a large extent on the scanner used. Hand-held scanners are not quite as accurate as fixed scanners, but the difference is marginal and usually attributable to the operator. If your local library has given up on its scanner because it doesn’t work, there is a very strong probability that the scanner is defective. The ISBN barcode system is widely and successfully used throughout the book publishing and distribution industries.

Bob, my secondary reason for providing the information was to advise you that placing a barcode image on a cover image is not always straightforward. I know that you self-publish and I hoped to show you (and anyone else with an interest) some of the pitfalls to avoid. Major commercial publishers use file systems that obviate most of the potential barcode errors and these file systems are quite different to the file systems used by most small publishing houses and self-publishers. This makes it easier for large publishing houses to avoid barcode errors.

I noted that you intend to obtain your barcodes from a free site on the web. I haven’t any experience of using such sites, so can’t comment on them. However, purchasing a barcode image from the official ISBN agency is not expensive. I think it’s about $45 for a single image in Australia. Moreover, barcode images obtained from official agencies are ready to be dropped into the cover image, requiring no additional processing (such as adding ISBN code numerals). If you do obtain a free barcode from the web, you need to ensure that it is in the correct format to be read by ISBN barcode scanners. A quick search of the web using “isbn barcode format” brought up several sites, aimed at self-publishers, that give you advice on how to modify and place free barcode images into your cover design.

Hope this helps.

Regards
Doug

jg grant
14th January 2012, 04:50
The difference between the ISBN barcode and a library barcode is that the ISBN barcode is unique to that title and the library barcode is unique to that copy.

Doug Shaw
14th January 2012, 06:11
The difference between the ISBN barcode and a library barcode is that the ISBN barcode is unique to that title and the library barcode is unique to that copy.

A valid and good point, that I completely overlooked. Duh! Our library scanners actually read the library barcode (on a sticker attached to the book) and not the ISBN barcode printed on the cover. The library scanner can't actually read the ISBN barcode because it is in a different format. Double duh!
But otherwise what I said previously remains true.

Regards
Doug

Shipbuilder
14th January 2012, 07:49
Doug & J G

Thanks for replies. The library told me exactly what JG says above. So that clears it all up.
When I look at the books in the library, they have, as JG says, added a sticker to them with a different Bar Code, in my case labelled "Lancashire County Library" It is twice as long as the ISBN code on the books! They scan that one simply to check the books in and out. If they want to look up details of the book, they have to type in the actual number as the book code does not scan!

The site I used for the free bar code is
http://www.terryburton.co.uk/barcodewriter/generator/

The codes it produces are exact apart from > in bottom right corner that I can remove easily enough anyway!

I will put them on the books in the form of stickers. The library will no doubt add their own.

Bob

Shipbuilder
8th February 2012, 17:53
Several weeks ago, I obtained my ISBN number:
978-0-9571583-0-6
I now try and put it on Amazon and it tells me to enter the number, but when I do, it can't find it!

I enter the ISBN number in www.bookfinder.com and it finds it straightaway on Amazon listed as "Temporarily out of stock!"

Of course it was never in stock at any booksellers because all the ones sold so far were to private individuals, so how on Earth do I enter them in Amazon?

Bob

Doug Shaw
8th February 2012, 23:00
Bob, what type of amazon.co.uk account do you have?

Regards
Doug

Shipbuilder
9th February 2012, 06:29
I don't really know! I buy books on Amazon and when I last spoke to them on the phone they said that could be used for selling, but I must have an ISBN number, so I got one and it still doesn't work! I will have to speak to them again today. On their site, I couldn't even find a way of registering as a seller although I am very computer literate at this sort of thing most of the time.
Bob

Doug Shaw
9th February 2012, 07:45
Bob,if I remember correctly, you need a publisher account to sell your books through Amazon. You can probably find what you need to know in the publishers and vendors section, which you can find here (http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=3933). I think you get about 40% of the listed price at the base level, but you will find the payment schedules under the different account options if you follow the link I've given above.

Hope this helps.

Regards
Doug

Shipbuilder
9th February 2012, 08:49
Thanks Doug,
It appears that they want a subscription of 28.75 per month - so if that is the case, there is no chance!
I guess it will be back to good old Ebay!
Bob

Doug Shaw
9th February 2012, 23:01
No worries, Bob.

I can't remember all the details now, but I recall that listing titles with Amazon required you to follow numerous, complicated procedures. It's certainly geared to volume sales rather than to the small publisher. Ebay is, as you say, a better option if you are selling a small number of copies.

Good luck.

Regards
Doug

Shipbuilder
10th February 2012, 07:04
Doug,
Yes, thats about it! The moment Amazon told me it was a simple matter to sell books via them, I realised that it would be a major undertaking. :D
Bob