Frequently Asked Questions

» Why Do I Need A Bar Code?
» What are Bookland EAN Bar Codes?
» Is the ISBN always printed above the bar code symbol?
» What is the price-add on?
» What about U.P.C. bar codes? Do they apply to books?
» Does the bar code have to appear on the back cover?
» What is Meant by Size Requirement?
» How do I apply bar codes to cloth cover books that don't have jackets?
» Can I trim the bar code symbol on the right to save space on the cover?
» What colors can I use for the bar code symbol?
» How do I apply bar codes to books that don't have a jacket?

Why Do I Need A Bar Code?

While the assignment of unique ISBN numbers to each title is often a requirement for selling your titles through major retailers such as Barnes and Noble or Borders as well as other wholesales and distributors, these same booksellers prefer to use a machine readable or scannable version of that number in their systems and processing. The Bookland EAN symbol is the most widely used bar code format in the publishing industry as it encodes the ISBN number and can also include the price.

The largest book retailers, as well as many book wholesalers, require books to display the Bookland EAN bar code graphic symbol which carries the ISBN. For example, at the point of sale in a bookstore, the book and its ISBN are scanned and all related information about the title is accessed in their sales system -- identifying the price correctly and subtracting a copy from their inventory etc. It’s an essential component of their handling of the book.


What are Bookland EAN Bar Codes?

While most retail products in the US are marked with a UPC symbol, virtually every other country uses the European Article Number (EAN). To provide world wide standardization in the sale and handling of books and because the book industry produces so many products annually, a special “country” with its own EAN prefix just for books has been designated in the EAN system -- 978 for “Bookland” -- which is used in the universal Bar Code system.

Any EAN which begins with the 978 prefix is called a Bookland EAN bar code and is used on books and book related products internationally. This 978 prefix precedes the first 9 digits of the ISBN and then a new check digit is calculated in order to form a 13-digit number which is then encoded to create the bar code symbol used on books. As part of the bar code service, our software assigns the 978 prefix and the new check digit to create the new 13-digit number.


Is the ISBN always printed above the bar code symbol?

Yes. Positioning it somewhere separately from the symbol requires a scanner operator to search for the ISBN in those situations where key-entry is necessary and valuable seconds are lost in the transaction. The file we prepare from our software will include the ISBN.


What is the price-add on?

The Bookland EAN bar code displays a set of two bar codes side by side. The first bar code on the left is the EAN derived from the ISBN. The bar code of the right, which is smaller, is a 5-digit add-on which often encodes the retail price of the publication. This is referred to as an EAN-5.

In the US, the first digit of the add-on data indicates which currency the price is expressed in -- so for US dollars, the designated digit is a 5. So an add-on of 51995 indicates a price of US$ 19.95.

You may choose not to include the pricing data and in that case the default value for the add-on is 90000 -- a null code which indicates that there is no pricing information encoded in the bar code.

However, the largest US retailers such as Barnes and Noble now require the use of EAN-5 bar code on books they handle. Scanners in American bookstores cannot read the Bookland EAN code without the corresponding 5-digit add-on. Publishers who don’t comply with this requirement may be penalized.


What about U.P.C. bar codes? Do they apply to books?

When books are sold in other types of retail outlets such as grocery stores, drug stores, discount department stores etc. that merchandise other than books, they are not always equipped to handle Bookland EAN bar codes -- their equipment doesn’t scan the different bar codes created for books. Therefore, these types of retailers may request books with UPC or Universal Product Code bar code symbols.

Generally, only mass-market paperback books should a book have two different bar codes printed on the back cover. In those cases, the Bookland EAN bar code should appear on the inside front cover. In all other instances, books should be marked with only one bar code, either EAN for bookstore outlets, or the UPC for non-book retailers.

While too costly for most publishers, some do print two different runs of a book -- one with the Bookland EAN bar code and one with the UPC bar code for each type of retailer. The best way to manage the dual requirements is to print one bar code on the back cover and then apply adhesive labels with the alternate bar code when necessary.

It is also the case that in the transition to ISBN-13, this separate use of the UPC code for books will cease. By late 2005, a significant percentage of regular non-book retailers should be able to accept Bookland EAN bar codes so this may be a temporary problem, again best resolved by stickering over the predominant type as needed.


Does the bar code have to appear on the back cover?

Yes. The standard location is the bottom right-hand corner. A major motivation for the development of bar codes for books was the need to speed up transactions. A standard location is therefore necessary to save the operator's time in searching the product for the code.


What is Meant by Size Requirement?

The magnification can range from 80% to 200% for a Bookland EAN code. The largest size used is typically a 100% code, although 92% is standard. The standard 92% symbol needs a total area of 2.00" x 1.25". The smaller ISBN Bookland EAN symbol is an 80%, which needs a total area of 1.75" x 1.0".


How do I apply bar codes to cloth cover books that don't have jackets?

A bar code label must be applied to the back board in the specified location. These can be produced by specialist bar code label printers, by litho from artwork, from a bar code label software package with laser, or thermal transfer output.


Can I trim the bar code symbol on the right to save space on the cover?

No. The purpose of the mark is to ensure that space is not used by any image in a color which could interfere with the bar code scanning process. A space to the right of the symbol is required to tell the scanner that the symbol is complete. The clear area to the left is already protected by the protruding '9' prefix to the EAN.


What colors can I use for the bar code symbol?

Reds, yellows, and white are suitable background colors if there are no black, blue or green constituents. Blues and greens, provided they are not too pale, and black are good colors for the image Browns and purples, etc, need special attention however as those with a reddish hue will probably not be successful. If in doubt, seek specialist advice or run a print test. Avoid metallic inks.


How do I apply bar codes to cloth cover books that don't have jackets?

A bar code label must be applied to the back board in the specified location. These can be produced by specialist bar code label printers, or by litho from artwork, or from a bar code label software package with laser or thermal transfer output.

 

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