Wikipedia talk:ISBN

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Wikipedia Help Project (Rated NA-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject iconThis page is within the scope of the Wikipedia Help Project, a collaborative effort to improve Wikipedia's help documentation for readers and contributors. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks. To browse help related resources see the Help Menu or Help Directory. Or ask for help on your talk page and a volunteer will visit you there.
 NA  This page does not require a rating on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This page has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.

Broken bookseller links at Special:BookSources[edit]

If you click on Special:BookSources/9781847242532#Booksellers (ISBN 9781847242532 is The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), the generated links for at least the following two are broken: (talk) 08:54, 26 January 2012 (UTC)

Borders Books has been taken over by Barnes & Noble, so I deleted this option. Strand Book Store should now be OK. --Robert.Allen (talk) 19:28, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

WikiProject Unique Identifiers[edit]

I have created WikiProject Unique Identifiers for discussion and coordination of all UID related matters. Please join! Andy Mabbett (Pigsonthewing); Talk to Andy; Andy's edits 13:05, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

Hyphenation: is it really meaningful?[edit]

Hi, I wonder whether it is really the best option to include the hyphenation. There are several reasons why to avoid it:

  • Wikipedia talk:ISBN/Archive 1#Current guidelines for ISBNs badly hyphenated at source? - it may be badly formed in the source itself and therefore wrongly written in the article.
  • Regarding the libraries, the Special:BookSources page parses the number correctly in any case.
  • Search engines, like Google, don't find books if the number searched for is copied from an article hyphenated but written unhyphenated in the indexed pages.
  • Google Books, which are increasingly used as a source of information and references, cite the numbers unhyphenated. It is much easier to copy the number without having to know exactly how ISBN have to be hyphenated, and it is much more important to include the number in any case, than to include it in a specific format. Editors will probably be more willing to add it if the format is not important, and in any case, the error of wrong hyphenation would be avoided.

The best option is to include the number unformatted to the article. The hyphenation, if necessary, should be part of the user preferences, and the software should parse the number, to avoid errors.

--Eleassar my talk 14:00, 13 March 2012 (UTC)

I favor the unhyphenated forms for many of the same reasons. However, it would also be possible to modify the Wikisoftware to incorporate the unhyphenated ISBN-13s and the corresponding unhyphenated ISBN-10s as hidden text that would be found by search engines like Google. This might be a workaround which would allow hyphenation in the visible numbers, which could be either ISBN-10 or ISBN-13 format, and still provide both as targets for web search engines. (This would be automatic and would not appear in the edit window or be visible on the page. And while we're at it, we should also make the hyphenated forms nowrap.) --Robert.Allen (talk) 08:47, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
This proposal does not solve many of the problems listed above. In addition, the hyphenated numbers are also copied from Wikipedia and inserted into Google search. --Eleassar my talk 18:10, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
It's pretty easy to remove the hyphens for searching, just by clicking the link, and bots can add the hyphens, which is probably preferable to having editors do it, since the bot is more accurate. --Robert.Allen (talk) 18:51, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
This (clicking the link) is not self-evident. I agree about bots inserting hyphens if necessary. To be exact, there already are bots doing it (e.g. User:Helpful Pixie Bot). --Eleassar my talk 18:53, 14 March 2012 (UTC)
I don't believe we have ever had a consensus that the hyphens should be added. I think these bots should hold off until we have solved some of these problems and reached some consensus on it. I especially don't think they should be added until we solve the wrapping problem. --Robert.Allen (talk) 08:50, 15 March 2012 (UTC)
Hyphenation is important for four reasons:
  1. It increases readability
  2. it decreases transcription errors from Wikipedia.
  3. It is the approved method of display, according to ISO, The International ISBN Agency and Wikipedia
  4. It conveys information about the book in human accessible form
Wikipedia is written primarily form humans, who jot stuff down on paper, are good with short runs of digits, but not with longer runs. ISBNs were designed to be human friendly, error detecting (though the 13 digit extension weakened that considerably), and conservative of the namespace (much like CIDR). We should stick to the ISBN standard. Rich Farmbrough, 11:54, 15 March 2012 (UTC).
Please explain what information the hyphens convey. Who has shown that they increase readability? (After all, I just love to read ISBNs.) What do you mean by transcription errors, when its' actually easier to copy and past the unhyphenated form. I have never seen a consensus on the Wikipedia that this is the best format. The ISO "standard" was created long before the web was. Most of the web has chosen to ignore it. So how can the hyphens be considered to be "standard", when most websites ignore them completely? It should be described a nonstandard standard. --Robert.Allen (talk) 09:30, 17 March 2012 (UTC)
The first segment (excluding any 978) is the language area, the second the publisher. Moreover you can get some idea of the relative size and age of the publisher. Remembering runs of digits is a standard psychological test on short term memory, dyslexics can generally remember shorter runs than mathematicians, but everyone is better at short runs than long runs. Cut and paste is easy in either form, some people do still use pens and pencils, or several devices, where transcription is needed. Most websites abuse apostrophes, spelling, grammar, HTML, and common sense. We try not to do that either. Nonetheless - Google hits for "1565920422" 2,700, Google hits for "1-56592-042-2" 9,000.
Moreover "1-56592-042-2 wikipedia" hits Wikipedia successfully as does "0596001320 wikipedia". Rich Farmbrough, 01:52, 20 March 2012 (UTC).
It may depend on who is picking the ISBN. I ran a similar search with a different ISBN: 9780307269997 About 75,300 results [1] and "978-0-307-26999-7" About 2,990 results [2]. But it seems likely that in each of these searches, only a subset of pages with the relevant ISBN are getting picked up, because of all the variations in formatting. Providing four targets for each ISBN (ISBN-10, ISBN-13, with hyphens and without) would certainly improve the odds of finding all pages that cite a particular ISBN. --Robert.Allen (talk) 02:00, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
ISBN-13s with dashes should be preferred. Doing it by bot is goodness; MediaWiki coercing this during a page save would be even better. Alarbus (talk) 10:02, 20 March 2012 (UTC)
Books originally published with an ISBN-10 should be referenced by their ISBN-10. ISBN-13 only adds the 978 prefix, but changes the check digit, making searching for the book more difficult. Systems handling ISBN number can often convert between the two formats transparently, but when doing a plain text search (e.g. in digital or OCR'ed books) you have to search by the (often, but unfortunately not always, correctly hyphenated) ISBN-10. —Ruud 00:08, 21 March 2012 (UTC)
As someone who ran the bookstore of a university department for a year, I can attest that hyphenation of ISBNs is useful. I could often instantly recognize the publisher and sometimes title of a book by its (hyphenated!) ISBN. As noted above the hyphenation also adds some additional redundancy to the ISBN (an information-theoretic proof is left as an exercise to the reader.) There seems to be a common misconception that the hyphenation of ISBNs is done arbitrarily, but this is not the case. —Ruud 00:07, 21 March 2012 (UTC)

Firefox Addon[edit]

Hi there,

I don't mean to self-promote here, but I have completed work on an add-on of some relevance to this page to allow, via right-click, the user to extract an ISBN out of text or links (as one may find often in references on Wikipedia) and go directly to (instead of first needing to go to Wikipedia's own page). Firefox is not permitting my add-on full release status yet because they say:

"It is unclear to us at this time if your add-on will be useful for a general audience so that it warrants public listing. We're granting you preliminary review only, but encourage you to promote your listing so that it garners more active users and user reviews. You may re-nominate your add-on once there is more proof of its usefulness."

If one is doing research on Wikipedia and they want to be able to quickly obtain books (yes, the addon currently only allows Amazon requiring a purchase), they have to go through an intermediate page each time, while my addon lets them skip that step.

So, would anyone kindly give me a quick review?

After (restartless) installation, you can just go to any page (whether on Wikipedia or not) with ISBN references and right-click the link (or highlighted text).

If you are interested in seeing the source code (which is quite simple), it is at .

(I had been hoping for a more browser-independent way that ISBN's could be flagged in markup to the browser--see , but that bug was rejected due to a lack of browser support--and still waiting on Firefox: .)

Thanks very much!

--Brettz9 (talk) 17:18, 31 December 2012 (UTC)

ISBN Searching[edit]

I probably am not understanding something but it seems I can't quite fathom a few use cases based on the way ISBNs are current held. If I know the non-hyphenated version of an ISBN for the book I'm interested that may have been cited on wikipedia somewhere. How would I go about finding any references given that the ISBNs are recorded here only in hyphenated form?

1. via wikipedia search?

2. via google?

If I'm correct in saying this isn't covered, is there a case for either smartening up the search function a little, or actually changing the way the isbn is stored to include both hyphenated and unhyphenated versions in the markup? I'd be interested in knowing some thoughts, I'm probably missing something really obvious and simple so sorry in advance. ---- nonsense ferret 00:53, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

In Wikipedia, ISBNs may be entered either hyphenated, spaced, or unpunctuated. Thus, ISBN 0-12-345678-9 ISBN 0 12 345678 9 and ISBN 0123456789 are exactly the same. If you click on any of these, you'll be taken to the same search page. --Redrose64 (talk) 01:12, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Sorry for asking a stupid question from stupidland, but is the point of that search page to search things outside of WP or search for all instances of that number within WP? ---- nonsense ferret 01:18, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
so yeah, I'm probably doing something wrong - I click a number like ISBN 0-553-26315-3 and get to the search page, and then i click on section 11 find on wikipedia, and I'd sort of expect that to find the reference that I'd clicked on but it doesn't seem to when I tried. I guess unless I'm doing something stupid, the link is stored on the page hyphenated then it is converted to unhyphenated on the search page, thus depriving me of the ability to search for it in wikipedia ---- nonsense ferret 01:25, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
The database used for that isn't updated in real time. If you added the ISBN to a page recently (say, within the last 24 hours), the search indexing spiders may not have updated the database, so it might not show. --Redrose64 (talk) 01:29, 1 February 2013 (UTC)
Well I used an ISBN that was already there on the page for ages - it seems like you can't type in a non-hyphenated isbn and find it on wikipedia now that they all have been changed to the hyphenated versions. ---- nonsense ferret 01:31, 1 February 2013 (UTC)

is there a problem?[edit]

maybe not much of one, but at least it seems like there is something a bit inconsistent about the current behaviour:

All ISBNs on pages have been converted to hyp version. I click on hyp version on an article I get sent to search page prepopulated with unhyphenated version. I click link to search wikipedia for all instances of the ISBN (using the prepopulated unhyp version) Expected: find the link on the page I originally clicked Actual: find no results - because there is a mismatch between hyp and unhyp.

Similarly, find a book on amazon which lists unhyp ISBNs, go to WP and search - Expected: find all references to that book where people have bothered to type in the ISBN Actual: find no references, ever, since they have all been converted by a bot.


  • I managed to use the search function correctly (BIG assumption)
  • A bot has been set to convert all ISBNs to hyp version (untested impression)
  • External sources tend to use unhyp versions of ISBN
  • It is difficult for a use to manually hyphenate an ISBN correctly and consistently for the purposes of searching
Not all articles have hyphenated ISBNs - see Rock 'n' Roll (John Lennon album) for one example of unhyphenated ISBNs. GoingBatty (talk) 19:20, 3 February 2013 (UTC)

what would a solution look like?[edit]

Two obvious approaches:

  • smarten up the search function to hyphenate ISBNs for the user
  • enhance the way ISBNs are stored with some markup which will allow them to be searched in hyphenated or unhyphenated forms and apply consistency across the database.

Authors and titles?[edit]

So, when you type in an ISBN on Wikipedia's lookup system, there are two huge problems with it:

  • No link to the article if there is one
  • Author and title not listed

I get the first one - I can imagine that might be a technically challenging thing to implement, or lots and lots of labor. But the second? Really? When I type in a really long number, my first question is "did I type the right number". You're not answering this basic question here. Ego White Tray (talk) 13:00, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Are you referring to Special:BookSources? --  Gadget850 talk 13:28, 7 June 2013 (UTC)
For which, see Wikipedia talk:Book sources for the discussion location. –Quiddity (talk) 18:42, 7 June 2013 (UTC)

Check digits differ?[edit]

Fixed We imply on the main page, and in some remarks above, that the check digit for ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 differs. Is that always true of valid numbers, so that coincidence of check digits represents an error by publisher or printer?

According to the official ISBN converter, this pair differ only by the prefix '978-':

  • 978-0-7134-8799-2 ; 0-7134-8799-2

I have supposed that the converter calculates check digits but wonder whether it refers to a database that incorporates publisher/printer errors that have been accepted.

--P64 (talk) 18:27, 25 May 2014 (UTC)

They don't necessarily differ: where they are similar, it's a coincidence, and the chances of that happening aren't particularly small. The ISBN-10 system has 11 possible check digits (0-9 and X), so there is a 1 in 11 chance that a given check digit (for example, the same check digit that ISBN-13 yields) will be yielded under ISBN-10. Therefore I would expect that the chance that both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 yield similar check digits would be 1/11 or 0.0909.
Example: ISBN 0-7110-0639-3 / ISBN 978-0-7110-0639-3 but not ISBN 0-7110-0638-5 / ISBN 978-0-7110-0638-6 or ISBN 0-7110-0640-7 / ISBN 978-0-7110-0640-9 --Redrose64 (talk) 10:21, 26 May 2014 (UTC)
I reworded the "Types" section to hopefully deal with that ambiguity.
P64, none of converters that I'm aware of include a database of wrong ISBNs. The converters simply strip off the existing check digit, adds or removes the "978-" prefix, and recomputes the check digit using the ISBN-10 or ISBN-13 algorithm. Most often when a publisher makes a mistake it uses an ISBN that is a duplicate of one used on an earlier book. It's rare though has happened that a publisher has incorrectly computed an ISBN's check digit. Prior to the use of ISBNs paperback books, and a few hardcover books, often included a catalog number such as "F3838". Many book databases have a field for the catalog number which can be also used to hold a publisher's wrong or incorrectly computed ISBN. Thus, if a book record has a value in the ISBN field it most likely is a valid ISBN for that book. If the record has a number that looks like an ISBN in the catalog number field than most likely it's because that ISBN is either not the right one or has the wrong check-digit. --Marc Kupper|talk 18:41, 16 September 2015 (UTC)

update available templates[edit]

I noticed someone had used {{Rowledge-Engines of the LMS}} which renders as:

Rowledge, J.W.P. (1975). Engines of the LMS built 1923–51. Oxford: Oxford Publishing Company. ISBN 0-902888-59-5.

Not sure if this is a standard method.

I added to Wikipedia:ISBN#Linking linking common templates - please review etc.Prof.Haddock (talk) 13:22, 5 June 2014 (UTC)

That template is in Category:Rail transport book citation templates; see the text at the top of that category. --Redrose64 (talk) 14:57, 5 June 2014 (UTC)

Misprinted ISBN[edit]

SusunW came about a rather bizarre case: According to Google Books this book misprints its own ISBN (correct is ISBN 978-0-8061-1758-4, as confirmed by WorldCat, not ISBN 978-0-8061-1458-4). Any chances of implementing a "redirect" so that entering the ISBN as printed in the book (assuming this isn't a digitalization error) will point to the correct ISBN? Huon (talk) 13:45, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

No, because the links to apparent pages like Special:BookSources/9780806114584, like many other "pages" in Special: namespace, don't really exist; so, even if we could create a redirect (which we can't), it would be ignored. There is a note somewhere that ISBNs are occasionally misprinted, and that the true ISBN should be used and not the one that the book shows. --Redrose64 (talk) 15:09, 31 January 2015 (UTC)
Thanks to you both. Guess it is a good thing that Wiki notifies one that there is an error. As clearly one would assume that in most instances the printed source correctly identified its own ISBN. SusunW (talk) 15:35, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

ISBN font size[edit]

I noticed the ISBN is knocked down a size and put in parentheses on the French Wikipedia. I think it looks way better. Look at the Bibliography here: fr:Rammstein#Bibliographie vs Rammstein#Further_reading. Could we change it here? Thoughts appreciated. МандичкаYO 😜 03:44, 30 June 2015 (UTC)

@Wikimandia: On French Wikipedia, that's only the case when the ISBN is wrapped in the appropriate template (i.e. {{ISBN|0-7119-7220-6}}); an ISBN produced using the magic link (i.e. ISBN 0-7119-7220-6) is in normal font size. See for example fr:Sandha Bhasa, ref. 5. The template concerned is fr:Modèle:ISBN which invokes fr:Module:Biblio; English Wikipedia does not have such a template. --Redrose64 (talk) 08:02, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
Still, we must have some ISBN template because it automatically hyperlinks ISBNs (ISBN 0-7119-7220-6). Couldn't we make it happen? I just think it looks so much better. Thanks. МандичкаYO 😜 08:08, 30 June 2015 (UTC)
That's not a template (you can tell because you didn't need to use double braces), it's part of the MediaWiki software. See Help:Magic links --Redrose64 (talk) 08:20, 30 June 2015 (UTC)

OK to add my own tool?[edit]

Does anyone object to me adding the ISBN tool I wrote to this page? It converts ISBNs, hyphenates them if valid, and offers descriptive error messages and suggestions (with links to check against WorldCat) if invalid. IMHO it is superior to both the LOC and tools. {{Nihiltres |talk |edits}} 18:55, 17 February 2016 (UTC)

No objections after a week; I'll go ahead and add it. {{Nihiltres |talk |edits}} 19:59, 24 February 2016 (UTC)

Research study on the prevalence and validity of ISBNs in book citations[edit]

There is a recent academic paper that may be of interest here - it examined a sample of book citations to check how many had ISBNs, and how many of those were valid ISBNs. I have written a review for the Wikimedia Research Newsletter aka the Signpost's "recent research" series: "Test of 300k citations: how verifiable is 'verifiable' in practice?" (see also the talk page discussion there).

Regards, Tbayer (WMF) (talk) 21:15, 27 March 2016 (UTC)

Future of magic links[edit]

Are people here aware that a decision has apparently been made to remove all magic links, which includes ISBN and PMID?

I can't find any discussions where consensus was established. There is Requests for comment/Future of magic links on Mediawiki. Five people have taken part, and it isn't what we call an RfC. There was a mailing list post by Legoktm in October; a thread on phabricator, T148274; and there is a request to approve a bot to remove them. Spinningspark left a note about the bot request on WP:VPP.

Leaving this here in case anyone is interested, and pinging Doc James because it affects PMID. SarahSV (talk) 16:01, 22 December 2016 (UTC)

Was discussed here at WTMED[3] a little while ago. Have not used these links myself. Others however do. Not sure what the solution is. Doc James (talk · contribs · email) 17:04, 22 December 2016 (UTC)
Editors who don't use citation templates use the ISBN and PMID magic links. If people object, the best thing is to leave a comment at WP:VPP#Removal_of_ISBN_magic_links and/or at the request for bot approval to remove them, Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval/Yobot 27. SarahSV (talk) 17:24, 22 December 2016 (UTC)

ISBNs in mw:Citoid[edit]

Hey All; at the WMF we have been working with OCLC to make ISBN generated citations available, through using their ISBN database. We have deployed the feature on all language Wikipedias: you can learn more about it on the Wikimedia blog. Astinson (WMF) (talk) 19:29, 11 May 2017 (UTC)


Hello All, has any thought been given to the new trend of texts as ebooks online with eIBSN references, please? William Harris • (talk) • 01:31, 19 January 2018 (UTC)

@William Harris: Yes, many times at Template talk:Cite book and elsewhere. Most of the discussions will now be in the archives. In brief: use |isbn=. --Redrose64 🌹 (talk) 17:03, 19 January 2018 (UTC)
Many thanks; this area is all very new to me. Regards, William Harris • (talk) • 19:51, 19 January 2018 (UTC)

Magic links[edit]

With magic links deprecated, and with no plans to bring them back that I am aware of, would anyone object to the removal of information on magic links on the page? It takes up a considerable amount of text for something that is not used, and makes it hard to find the information you are looking for. Kees08 (Talk) 02:56, 1 February 2019 (UTC)

I think that we should leave the magic link information here until they are actually disabled, if they ever are. It's been over two years since magic links were deprecated, and en.WP has been ready to disable them for a long time, but we haven't seen any movement. I would rather wait until it actually happens, if it ever does.
The "Linking" section should have subsections on the {{ISBN}} and {{ISBNT}} templates, however. – Jonesey95 (talk) 05:43, 1 February 2019 (UTC)