March 31, 2014
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes

This year is an exciting year for us with ISBNs.

(If you don’t already know, ISBNs are an identifying number for books — each book has its own, so that it can be identified numerically.  This is helpful for things like being scanned in a store or a library and registering in a general system.)

We get our ISBNs here at First Second from our parent company, Roaring Brook.  They get them from Bowker, who provides all the ISBNs to anyone in the United States; they cost money and typically the strategy is to buy them in batches.

So we’ve been proceeding merrily along with our initial batch of ISBNs here at First Second since our first books in 2006.  How can you tell that something is from our first batch?  Well, the ISBNs all have the same first initial numbers.

A normal ISBN for us would be something like: 978-1-59643-451-6.  (That’s the ISBN for Shackleton.)  Here’s what those numbers mean:

978 — EAN number (a universal product code)

1 — Group Number (tells people we are an English-speaking country)

5643 — Publisher Number (for Roaring Brook, our parent company)

451 — Title Number (assigned exclusively to the specific title)

6 – Check Digit (figured out by algorithm from the rest of the numbers)

That means that every single one of the First Second titles has the initial ISBN 978-1-59643.  (I have to type these numbers so often that I have memorized them.)

But . . . when you’ve got a Title Number that’s only three digits long, you eventually run out of numbers to use.  Because there are only so many three-digit numbers, and each book needs a different one.

We just ran out.

Our new ISBN prefix, which you’ll be seeing starting in 2014, is 978-1-62672.

You can find it on the back cover of the book, with the barcode:

photo 3

Or you can find it on the interior page with the copyright information:

photo 1

Will you be seeing it on every single one of our books?


Each book gets an ISBN when it’s acquired.  That means that if we acquired a book back in 2010, it’ll have a 978-1-59643 ISBN prefix even if we publish it in 2017.

But just-requested hardcover editions of acquired long-ago books and just-acquired books will have the brand new 978-1-62672 ISBN prefix.

See which of our books you can spot with the new ISBN throughout the year!

(These photos are both from the hardcover edition of Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki’s This One Summer.)

Your Comments are Welcome!