Bar codes for the book industry

(Reprinted with permission from Bar Code Graphics)

A necessary requirement for selling your publications through booksellers, wholesalers, and distributors, is the assignment of unique ISBN numbers for each title. Once a publisher receives their ISBN numbers, they should assign an individual number to each of their publications. In order for booksellers to automatically capture an ISBN, it must be converted into a scannable bar code. The Bookland EAN symbol is the bar code of choice in the book industry, because it allows for encodation of ISBNs.

The Industry Standard
Larger book retailers, as well as many book wholesalers require that the books they handle be marked with the Bookland EAN bar code. With this machine-readable code on the book, the retailer can scan the symbol and easily electronically identify the book by its ISBN. When a retail clerk scans the Bookland EAN bar code at the point of sale, the bar code identifies the book so that the price and other information about the book can be retrieved from the bookseller’s database. The computer then automatically reports the price to the cash register and the book buyer pays the correct price for the book.

Bookland EAN Bar Codes
Bookland EAN symbols In the United States, most retail products are marked with a UPC symbol. The corresponding bar code symbol in use in every other country aside from the United States is the European Article Number (EAN). Every EAN begins with a 2 or 3 digit prefix, which indicates the country of origin. EANs for companies registered in France, for example, might begin with the prefix 34; Japan’s prefix is 49. Since the book industry produces so many products, it has been designated as a country unto itself and has been assigned its own EAN prefix. That prefix is 978 and it signifies Bookland, that wonderful, fictitious country where all books come from.

An EAN which begins with the Bookland prefix 978 is called a Bookland EAN code and is used on books and book related products internationally. The Bookland symbol is the bar code of choice in the book industry, because it allows for encodation of ISBNs ( the numbers publishers use to identify their products). Since an ISBN is unique to one particular title (or product), the corresponding Bookland EAN symbol is a title-specific marking which is unique for that title.

The Anatomy of a Bookland EAN Symbol
The Bookland EAN is a 13-digit code. To convert the ISBN to the Bookland EAN, begin with the Bookland Prefix 978. The next 9 digits are the first 9 digits of the ISBN, with the hyphens deleted. The 13th digit is the check digit, calculated mathematically using the preceding 12-digits (Bar Code Graphics automatically calculates the EAN check digit when producing pre-press bar code artwork or when printing bar code labels). For example, the ISBN 0-123456-47-9 becomes Bookland EAN 9780123 45647 2. In this example, as in most cases, the ISBN check digit and the EAN check digit differ. Occasionally the two are the same.

Bookland bar code info

Bookland bar code info

Two Bar Codes in One
The Bookland EAN bar code is actually two bar codes side by side. The larger bar code to the left is the EAN derived from the ISBN. The smaller bar code to the right is a 5-digit add-on where various information might be encoded. Most often, the add-on is used to encode the retail price of the publication. A Bookland EAN code which has the price encoded in the add-on is called an EAN-5. It gets it’s name from the first digit of the add-on, which is the currency indicator. Five is the designation for US dollars. An add-on of 51095, then, encodes the price $10.95. A book priced at $3.00 would have the add-on 50300. Books priced at $99.99 or higher use the add-on 59999.

The larger book retailers prefer the use of EAN/5. When the publisher chooses not to include the price, however, the add-on is 90000 (EAN/9), which is a null code indicating that there is no data encoded.  Scanners in bookstores in the US cannot read the Bookland EAN code without its 5-digit add-on. Thus, the use of either the EAN/5 or the EAN/9 is required. There has been a dramatic increase in the usage of Bookland EAN symbols, since companies are investing millions of dollars in computer systems and scanning equipment to take advantage of automatic data collection. The foundation of these systems is contingent on bar code print quality. When symbols cannot be read or decode incorrectly, the efficiency of these systems is brought to a halt. Consequently, many retailers and wholesalers are severely penalizing consumer goods manufacturers who furnish substandard symbols.

UPC—The Other Bar Code
The book industry uses the Bookland EAN code because it can render the ISBN into a machine readable symbol (bar code). This causes problems, however, when books are sold in retail outlets other than book stores. Supermarkets, drug stores, department stores and other retailers often sell books, but are not properly equipped to scan the Bookland EAN symbols. A publisher selling to a non-book retailer might well be asked to provide books marked with the Universal Product Code (UPC).

The Book Industry Study Group has articulated clear guidelines about how publishers should do this.  Only in the case of mass-marketed, rack-sized paperback books should a book have two different bar codes printed on its covers. In that case, the UPC should appear on the back cover (Cover 4) and the Bookland EAN code is printed on the inside front cover (Cover 2). In all other instances, books should be marked with only one bar code, either EAN for the bookstores, or UPC for non-book retailers.

A small number of publishers accomplish this by actually printing two different runs of a book: one printed with an EAN on the back cover, the other with the UPC. This represents too costly a solution for most publications. The proper way to handle the EAN/UPC problem is to print one bar code on the back cover and then label over the printed bar code with its opposite symbol when necessary. For example, a book which is sold mostly in bookstores will have the Bookland EAN code printed on its cover. When that book is sold to non-book retailers, the publisher will need to cover the EAN code with an adhesive label with the UPC printed on it. Printing two different bar codes on the same cover of any book merely invites confusion among those who scan the bar codes and should be avoided in every instance.

UPC bar code

Bar Code Graphics, Inc. offers a wide range of products and services geared towards enabling companies to get scannable bar codes on their products. When Bookland EAN and UPC symbols are to be incorporated in the design stage of packaging or printed on labels, we provide original bar code artwork. Their online service enables users to create and download a high-resolution bar code file (EPS format) at anytime 24/7 for only $10 per symbol.