ISBN & Bar Code

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 13-digit product code. Books supported by Arc Light Books have the option of using an Arc Light Books ISBN. Authors can also purchase their own or have one assigned by an online printer.

A bar code is a graphical representation of an ISBN that can be read by scanning devices to automate transactions. The bar code can be purchased separately and added to the cover design file. Or it can be added online using the ISBN number specified in the project setup for the online printer.


Bowker is the official ISBN Agency for the United States and Australia. My Identifiers is the official website. Arc Light Books is a publisher of record, registered with Bowker. We buy ISBNs in bulk at My Identifiers. Buying at least five ISBNs is economical and often necessary, because each media version your book, such as hard cover, paperback, MOBI (for Kindle), ePUB and PDF (for other book readers), requires its own ISBN.

Imprint & Publisher of Record

The book’s imprint is like a brand name for a line of books by a publisher. A publisher can have many imprints. The publisher of record is the entity that purchases and manages the ISBN, and is the name embedded in the ISBN and its bar code.

Patricia Adler had traditionally self published two books with her own imprint when she came to Arc Light Books for design and production. Jan Camp managed the project using the author’s existing Writers’ Block imprint and the ISBNs associated with it that she had purchased from Bowker.

David Hathwell publishes through a print-on-demand publisher with a specific focus on poetry. He relies on Arc Light books for consultation, collaborative design, layout, and press-ready electronic files delivered to his publisher.


Data that provides information about other data is called metadata. For the purposes of online publishing, the ISBN contains the basic and most important metadata for tracking your book. Other metadata that gets entered online in the books various accounts is descriptive. Such as short and long synopses of the books content, author bio, keywords, contributors, shelving categories, trim size, edition number, volume, language, publication date, number of pages, and more.


As a unique identifier, the ISBN allows publishers and self-publishers, book distributors, and retail sellers to track a particular book. An ISBN can be searched to find the title, author, media, publisher, and price of a book. (See the example below.) A printer’s brand is fine if your goal for the book is personal. For instance, Dorothy Crews Herzberg’s memoir of her years in the Peace Corps uses an Arc Light Books ISBN, while her gift book to a friend uses one assigned by CreateSpace.

An Enduring Friendship
ISBN: 9781508932048
Author: Dorothy Crews Herzberg
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
List Price: $10.00

Me, Madam
ISBN: 9781939353115
Author: Dorothy Crews Herzberg
Binding: Paperback
Publisher: Arc Light Books
List Price: $15.00

♦ The key to effective ISBN assignment is creating metadata information that is appropriate for your book’s goals