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Topic: Old book with an "SBN" that matches 90 percent of an "ISBN" in the PBS data

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Subject: Old book with an "SBN" that matches 90 percent of an "ISBN" in the PBS data
Date Posted: 9/15/2014 6:51 PM ET
Member Since: 1/16/2014
Posts: 59
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In the last several months, I've posted over 200 books on PBS. Today, I ran into a very odd situation for the first time, and I'd appreciate any feedback the "seasoned veterans" of the site may have to offer.

Here's the situation:

The book I have right in front of me was first published in paperback by Ballantine in 1975. On the back cover, there is no barcode and no ISBN. 

However, printed on the spine of the book, there's the following string of numbers:


Near as I can tell, the "150" part at the end simply reflects the fact that the cover-price of the book, as seen on the top of the front cover, is $1.50. (I say this because I've previously posted several other old books which had, on the spine, groups of numbers which appeared to be "an ISBN plus the price in pennies.")

On an inside page of my book, where it has the publishing information, it says:

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 73-89569

SBN 345-24601-2-150

No ISBN listed, however.

When I searched for the book here on PBS, using the first nine digits of the "SBN" (and later using all 12 digits, including the "150"), I got no hits. However, when I searched for author and title, I found a PBS listing. 

The PBS entry for that book has: Same title. Same author. Same publisher. Same year of publication. Same format. And two ISBN numbers provided, with one of them being:

ISBN-10: 0345246012

In other words, the first nine digits of the "SBN" printed in my copy are a match for the last nine digits of the ISBN-10 in the PBS listing. Someone simply added a zero at the front of that 9-digit SBN string, and called the result the ISBN-10 number from that day forward.   

Once or twice before, I've had books to post which did not have an ISBN on them. But I've never before had a book with something called the "SBN" which matched 90 percent of the ISBN-10 in a PBS listing for the same novel.

I'm just wondering if anyone knows of any precedent; any special rule for this? If it didn't have anything resembling a valid ISBN, I would know exactly what to dol it's when there's such a strong resemblance that I start scratching my head and wondering if I can "assume" that this counts the same, with the zero simply having been added at the start of the SBN as a "null" to pad it out into one of those newfangled (in the 1970s) 10-digit ISBNs! 



Lori M. (ripley) - ,
Date Posted: 9/15/2014 8:18 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2005
Posts: 1,614
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I have found that on older books the zero is sometimes missing at the beginning of the ISBN. I think you could add it and post with no problem.

Date Posted: 9/15/2014 8:19 PM ET
Member Since: 11/13/2005
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You can indeed convert 9-digit SBNs to 10-digit ISBNs by adding a 0 to the front.

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

Date Posted: 9/16/2014 12:07 AM ET
Member Since: 5/7/2009
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Yes, that is correct.  Many early books didn't have the leading zero but is now added to make the 10 digits so that entries set up for a 10 digit number won't reject it.

Date Posted: 9/16/2014 12:20 AM ET
Member Since: 12/28/2006
Posts: 14,177
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Yes, I don't recall what SN stood for but they were used during the transition period...until ISBN was the industry standard.

Date Posted: 9/16/2014 3:43 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2007
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The Standard Book Number system began in the mid-1960s and were composed of 9 digits. By the late 1960s the SBN system evolved into the 10-digit International Standard Book Number system which became the standard by about 1970. Eventually the10-digit ISBN system was expanded to the current 13-digit ISBN system.

The number cited in the original post, 345-24601-2-150, is a 9-digit SBN with three trailing digits that are not part of the SBN. As surmised in the original post, these digits most likely reflect the book's cover price.

The first digit in the 10-digit ISBN designates a language group (or country of publication). In general, books published in English have a 0 or a 1 as their first digit. In all cases of books published in the US, however, 9-digit SBN numbers can be converted into 10-digit ISBN numbers by adding a leading zero, but this rule does not apply to foreign-language books. On the other hand, conversion to the newer 13-digit ISBN system is a bit more difficult and involves two steps. The first of these is trivial and simply requires prepending the digits "978" to the 10-digit number. The second step is more difficult because the last digit of the number is a check-digit that is calculated using a mathematical formula. Although the calculation is not especially difficult mathematically, it is time-consuming to do by hand and not something you'd want to do more than a few times, if at all. Pretty much all book sites will accept either 10-digit or 13-digit ISBNs and convert these automatically as needed, so this is rarely, if ever, a problem.

In addition, there is no need to include the dashes that publishers often include in their SBN and ISBN numbers, and in practice it is better not to do so. Publishers often divide the numbers into groups by inserting dashes into the ISBN but there is no standard for doing this. These are arbitrary and have internal meaning for the publisher but are not part of the ISBN system. They have no significant meaning in the ISBN system and should be ignored, so an ISBN like 0-345-24601-2 should be shortened to 0345246012 when searching or posting.

And lastly, a brief note about Library of Congress Catalog Card Numbers such as 73-89569. This numbering system has fallen to the wayside but is frequently seen on copyright pages of older books.  The first to digits indicate the approximate year when the book was published, and the trailing digits are assigned by the Library of Congress without any specific meaning or interpretation that I am aware of. In the case of 73-89569, the year of publication is probably either 1973 or 1974. The uncertainty is because the numbers were assigned prior to actual publication and it is possible that the book did not go into print until the following calendar year. The two digits reflect the year when the number was assigned and not necessarily the year of publication.

Last Edited on: 9/16/14 4:19 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 9/16/2014 9:31 AM ET
Member Since: 1/16/2014
Posts: 59
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I didn't expect so many replies to pile up overnight, but I appreciate all the feedback. Thanks, everybody!

I suspected the zero at the start of the ISBN-10 number might be a meaningless "null" simply added to "pad out" a 9-digit number into a 10-digit as the publisher was transitioning over to "that newfangled ISBN-10 system," and that the correspondence of the other 9 digits in the ISBN-10 to the "SBN" listed in my copy of the book would be good enough to justify posting my copy under the relevant listing in the PBS database -- but I wasn't sure if PBS would agree with my interpretation if anyone chose to file a nitpicking complaint along the lines of "this isn't exactly the edition I thought I ordered!"

After seeing your assurances on here, I've now gone ahead and posted that book. smiley

I'd also posted a bunch of others last night. It looks like I've now posted just over 250 since I joined the site, and already mailed out over 50 of them. Thus far, nobody has accused me of breaking any of the house rules, and I didn't want to ruin a perfect record over a tiny technicality (such as "a missing zero").


Date Posted: 9/16/2014 12:42 PM ET
Member Since: 10/13/2007
Posts: 36,445
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NO the 0 means it is in english.  It's not just an extra number to pad it.     The number is the same one just without the language indicator listed.

Date Posted: 9/16/2014 1:00 PM ET
Member Since: 1/16/2014
Posts: 59
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Just to quickly address one thing, Xengab -- I think you may have slightly misunderstood what I said in my recent post. I didn't say: "After reading all this feedback, I am convinced, right now, that the initial 0 is a null -- absolutely meaningless, any way you look at it." I was only trying to explain what I had vaguely suspected before I ever launched this discussion thread. (And I launched it, of course, because I knew I didn't know enough to be sure, one way or the other, about the importance of the initial 0.)

I did, in fact, read all of Chris F.'s post, including the bit in which he explained that the initial digit of a 10-digit ISBN number indicates the language of the book. I just didn't bother to explicitly refer to that bit when I thanked everybody for their helpful feedback.

It's a minor point, but I just wanted to set the record straight, in case there was any confusion about how much I had or hadn't learned from the feedback! smiley

Date Posted: 9/17/2014 1:11 AM ET
Member Since: 8/20/2007
Posts: 1,020
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Regarding the leading zero in the 10-digit ISBN, or ISBN-10....

As already stated, the leading zero is not a "null" used for converting an SBN into 10-digits but is an identifier that designates a book's language group as English. Although the mathematical formula used for computing the final or "check" digit of the ISBN does indeed use the first digit, the computation is not affected by a zero in the first position. If the leading digit of an ISBN-10 is anything other than zero, however, it will change the resulting check digit. [Also, as the ISBN system evolved (it is an International Standard Book Number after all) it wasn't long before more than one digit was needed to identify language groups and countries of publication. The group identifier was eventually expanded to include up to 4 digits, but in this discussion I'm only addressing the leading digit.]

It is a happy artifact of the algorithm chosen for computing the checksum (which is always the last digit of an SBN or ISBN) that a leading zero results in a valid check digit for English language books having ISBNs that begin with a zero. A leading digit of "1", which also designates the language group as English, will yield a different checksum digit than a leading digit of zero. In these cases, adding a leading zero will result in a mathematically valid ISBN, but will not be correct if the ISBN for a given book was assigned with a "1" as its first digit.

It is certainly convenient and easy that simply adding a leading zero to an SBN results in a valid ISBN-10 for the large majority of US-published books.

Last Edited on: 9/17/14 1:12 AM ET - Total times edited: 1