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Why You Shouldn't Use ISBNs As Book's Barcodes

Suppose that you have been tasked with the responsibility of organizing a brand new library. There are a few stacks of books scattered throughout the location, some empty shelves, and a barcode scanner that is waiting for your trigger finger to become itchy. You are aware that if every book in your library has a barcode, it will be much simpler to locate that book in the catalogue of your library. At this point, you will have realized that the back cover of each book already contains a barcode for the book’s ISBN. Since the ISBN is unique for each title, there is no reason to use anything else.


Simple Little Library System

Why not use the ISBN?

Everyone makes use of the International Standard Book Number, often known as an ISBN, in order to identify the specific edition of a work. ISBNs are provided to publishers by either the International ISBN Agency or one of its affiliates. Why not instead use the book’s ISBN to identify it in your library’s collection? If you think about it, it’s quite unlikely that any other titles will have the same number.

When you take into account the possibility that you own more than one copy of a book, the solution becomes immediately obvious. If not right now, then perhaps at some point in the future. The ISBN will be the same on each and every copy of a title, regardless of whether you have one, two, or thirty copies of the book in your library. The problem is that the ISBN does not correspond to a single copy in any of your collections.


Why do you need a unique identifier?

To keep track of stock in your library you need a unique number or identifier for every copy or copy item in your library. This is sometimes called an “accession number” or an “item barcode”. 

For example, if you used the ISBN as the copy identifier, and both copies are on loan, when one is overdue, which borrower do you contact? If a copy is returned to the library, which one is it? How do you check the history of a copy, or track it down?

Even if you’re sure that you’ll never buy another copy of a given book, you might lose the one that you have – a borrower might disappear with it or spill coffee all over it, or it might just get worn out. If you’re uniquely identifying each copy in your catalogue, you can mark the old copy as having been lost, and add a new one with a different number.

The problem is that the ISBN is not exclusive across each and every one of your copies.

The answer is a barcode in every copy. You will be able to track, trace, and audit any individual item in your library after every duplicate or thing has its own unique number. Because of this, librarians will provide a one-of-a-kind number to each and every copy or object that is part of the collection. Either a one-of-a-kind number that you handwrite in the book or a barcode label that represents a one-of-a-kind number might serve in this capacity.

Sheets or rolls of pre-printed barcode labels for the library are both available for purchase. You merely need to remove the barcode number from its backing and stick it anywhere on the product, most often just inside the front cover.

This number should be entered into the box that asks for the accession number, item barcode, or unique identifier. You are still able to save the ISBN number in the box designated for ISBNs on the primary catalogue entry that contains the title’s description.

There will be no difficulties in the future.

When you are cataloging your collection, it may seem like a simple option to use the ISBN as the ‘barcode.’ However, doing so will invariably result in additional work being done than is necessary, which is why this is not a smart practice. The ISBN is a wonderful resource for locating bibliographic information; however, it is not useful as a barcode that is specific to a copy of a book that is housed in your library. If you begin with completely distinct numbers, you won’t have to worry about any potential number conflicts in the future. It will also be simple to keep track of all of your copies.

Penny explains it all...