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The Anatomy of a Barcode

If you’ve ever attempted to publish your own book, you’ve likely had to deal with barcodes at some point. A barcode is a graphic of vertical lines that can be scanned for sales or inventory. The ISBN number is used to create the barcode, but the number and the barcode are two separate things.

Why do you need an ISBN?

If you put your book out there for sale it is important to identify it uniquely. An ISBN acts like a social security number for your book.

International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies your book. If you plan to sell your printed books or ebooks through booksellers, it is recommended to purchase an ISBN for each edition, for example, one each for hardcover, softcover, and ebooks.

If your book will be sold primarily to family and friends, through your website or by back-of-the-room sales, an ISBN is not necessary. Visit to purchase your ISBNs.

The Anatomy of a Barcode

The Anatomy of a Barcode

To learn more about ISBNs and barcodes and how they relate to book publishing, check out our article on the subject.


A newcomer in the northwest, Colin originally hails from sunny San Luis Obispo, California, where he earned his bachelors in English. In between backpacking excursions, his hobbies include competitive ballroom dancing and fiction writing.

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