Wikipedia talk:ISBN/Archive 1

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Archive 1



But why do Wiki ISBN links fail so often? Are they always to ? Perhaps the parser should differentiate based on the first (region) digit. -- Hotlorp

It's not quite as simple as that, but it's close. See for details.


0 English speaking areas
1 English speaking areas
2 French speaking areas
3 German speaking areas
4 Japan
5 Former USSR
6 (undefined?)
7 China
8x various: see the cite above for details
9x various: see the cite above for details

Here are some links:

French online booksellers

List of German online booksellers

Article about Japanese online booksellers, with links at the end

Can anyone suggest good French, German, Japanese, Chinese etc. online booksellers that take ISBN links?

A dutch online bookshop is Proxis, to search using an ISBN use this link. Peak Freak 20:47, 10 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Tailoring the links according to the prefix code would be a good start, but perhaps a little more might be done. At the Esperanto wiki we'd certainly love to be able to have ISBN links as well, but there are two problems:

  • First, while there are a number of online Esperanto book services and catalogs, I don't think any of them are actively indexed by ISBN. (This is perhaps fixable; I'm thinking of setting up a meta-index site which could be pointed to if I can't find one that's suitable as-is.)
  • More importantly, those prefixes are by physical region of the publisher with some grouping by the primary local language, not by the language of the published material or the target audience. I have books on my shelf with prefixes 83 (Poland), 88 (Italy/Switzerland), 91 (Sweden), and 92 (International organizations -- publications by the Universal Esperanto Association go in this category, but not most publishers) -- but I'd wager you'll have a hard time finding them in mainstream Polish, Italian etc online bookshops.

We could just make the default link point to an Esperanto catalog site for the eo wiki, but then it gets more difficult to cite books in other languages (or to cite sources/referenced books in articles _about_ Esperanto on the other wikis). An internal list of publisher's codes might help... Just something to think about. --Brion VIBBER

I removed this:

To create a link to, a somewhat better service with links to more booksellers make an external link in the form: [ ISBN: 0521258626]. Note you must enter the ISBN twice. The colon after ISBN is necessary or a link to will be created automatically by the wiki software.

Aside from not wanting to say that AddAll is "better", I don't think that we should have links to all sorts of different service running around, unless these are to find different languages and the like. Hardcoded links are also not as good (in general) as links created by the software using ISBN notation. Perhaps AddAll is better than Pricescan; then we should make ISBN links go to AddAll. This (and Wikipedia-L) is precisely the place to discuss it. — Toby 15:04 Aug 21, 2002 (PDT)

After a very brief look, I think that AddAll is indeed better, for this reason: It gives information about the book even when it has no prices to list. So I will suggest this to Wikipedia-L. — Toby 15:08 Aug 21, 2002 (PDT)

AddAll also lists many more booksellers including those offering used books and those in England User:Fredbauder

I came across another price comparison service which looks great. To find the lowest book prices. — Anon

There are other even better book price comparison sites: and .

Although this reads something like a spam ad (sorry to Anon if that wasn't the intent), looking at the site, I have to agree that it seems pretty fair. I can't edit special pages, but if I did, then I'd add it. — Toby 05:54 Nov 3, 2002 (UTC)

Can I put in a request for that special page to include as well? It's only got four links at the mo, so there's lots of space for more. It'd also be a nice way for Bomis/Wikipedia to make a little cash... -Martin

It would be very interesting a link, a page or a section in this article about How include ISBN links in wikipedia. Mac 00:49 Mar 8, 2003 (UTC)

from village pump

Question/suggestion about

This page only comes up when you click on an ISBN and then it goes from this page directly to a link for the ISBN you clicked on. Mega-handy, but not explained on the page. It would also be mega-handy, to me, anyway, if going to the page directly allowed going to one of the book sources and searching directly. It works on everything but the Barnes and Noble link. Ortolan88

end from village pump

Moved from the main page:

Could Wikipedia make some money with referral payments?

I want to add Powell's used books to the list, but it requires adding a link with that ends 1-ISBN-4. any ideas on how I'd do that, or if it's possible? Koyaanis Qatsi 09:19 12 Jun 2003 (UTC)

ISBN link - how to?

Hi, how do I link to an ISBN with alternate text? i.e. I want the link ISBN 0767901320 to read Success is a Choice.

I'm trying to put this into Rick Pitino.

Thanks! Goodralph 02:12, 20 Dec 2003 (UTC)

We don't do it that way. A link reading "Success is a Choice" is expected to go to a Wikipedia article with that title (or an external website, if it's a different colour). ISBN links are consciously left to read the actual ISBN so the user knows that it is an ISBN link. -- Timwi 02:26, 20 Dec 2003 (UTC)
But in some situations, it is already plainly obvious that the number is an ISBN, such as in a table. For example, look at World's Best Reading. Forcing a "ISBN" in front of each number is awkward looking and redundant. Pimlottc (talk) 05:19, 9 April 2008 (UTC)

Yes, why can't Wikipedia make money from ISBN links? It could become an Amazon Associate, for example. I make a few dollars a month from my associate links from my home page, and practically no one visits that. Wikipedia should be able to make much more. I'd be happy to look into this if there's general consensus that we should do it. (Or has this been discussed before?) Lawrence 23:48, 1 Jan 2004 (UTC)

It has been discussed quite a lot - particularly on the mailing list. Jimbo Wales has now signed Wikipedia as an Amazon affliate for a trial period. This is quite controversial. Pete/Pcb21 (talk) 21:48, 21 Jan 2004 (UTC)


I created the template to flag articles for cleanup, i.e. those that mentioned books and needed an ISBN added. User:Ctorok has been in touch with me about the category and I put up a suggestion on Template talk:ISBN about what numbers should be cited. I'd appreciate Wikipedians adding their suggestions there. Ave! PedanticallySpeaking 19:57, Dec 29, 2004 (UTC)

re. publisher ranges, the article states that "a complete, up-to-date list is not available at"; so what's this: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 20 May, 2005

Somewhat easier to handle than the PDF are the JavaScript ( and HTML ( versions. --CyHawk (talk) 14:40, 5 January 2009 (UTC)


Can a book have more than one ISBN? If so how do I know which one to use? Jaberwocky6669 00:34, Jun 27, 2005 (UTC)

Yes, for various editions of the book (hardcover, paperback, etc.) -- WhiteDragon 20:40, 8 March 2006 (UTC)
  • I'd also like to know an answer to this one. is there a preference for first edition, currently in print edition, hardback, paperback, trade, etc ? --Quiddity 21:44, 2 October 2005 (UTC)
On an article about the book, I try and include as many ISBNs as I can (there's a few articles which are de facto complete publication records for that book because of this), but it's a tedious process. If you're referencing a particular edition, make sure you've the right ISBN. Otherwise, use whatever you feel is best - but it's probably a good idea to go with the edition most likely to be available to a reader, so "current paperback" is a good bet. (For widely published books, it might be a good idea to find ISBNs for UK/Commonwealth editions as well as American ones, or vice versa, since it's common for these to coexist). Shimgray | talk | 22:53, 2 October 2005 (UTC)

What about in between editions? (Eg. Between edition 6 & 7). Will the ISBN change? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) , 10 January 2007.

The ISBN could be different. I have noticed publishers changing the ISBN when they reprint a book even though the text might be the same. Certainly Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine appears to change ISBNs with each edition. Publishers seem to use the ISBN as a 'stock number', a thing to designate a separately orderable item. Suppose they keep more than one edition in print (for whatever reason). If they have different ISBNs, it makes it easier for the customer to order the one they want. EdJohnston 05:13, 12 January 2007 (UTC)
It seems, based on what's currently stated on the project page, that a single book (same edition and printing) can have two ISBN's, a 10-digit and a 13-digit one. The project page here says we should use only the 13-digit if available. Am I interpreting this correctly? --Georgeryp 05:12, 19 April 2007 (UTC)
That's what the project page appears to say. I myself would not agree, unless the book was first issued after 1 January, 2007. I would prefer to see pre-2007 books still listed using their ISBN-10s. Not all booksellers and libraries can yet search for older books by an ISBN-13. EdJohnston 19:31, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
I agree, in principle, that maximizing the chance someone will find a book (via Wikipedia:Book sources or otherwise) is important. The wording prefering ISBN-13 over ISBN-10 was made on this edit[1]. I did some further digging and on User talk:Tschild it states "...before the end of the year when ISBN-10 become invalid" (written in Dec 2006). What is meant by invalid? Are books with both 10 and 13-digit isbns going to become "unfind-able" under their ISBN-10s? I'm still learning how things work on Wikipedia - what is the next step? - A post to someone's Talk page or waiting for a reply here? A test case: ISBN 0066620384 and ISBN 978-0066620381 are both the same book (according to but the Internet Book Database only finds it with the 10-digit isbn (assuming the IBD can find some books with 13 digits) --Georgeryp 20:54, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
You are welcome to write to Rich Farmbrough to see if he still maintains that opinion. I don't believe you'll find any unanimity across Wikipedia on this point. EdJohnston 01:31, 23 April 2007 (UTC)

"SAT test"

"ISBN number" is redundant, much like "PIN number," "ATM machine," or "SAT test".

This is not technically true; if you'll look at the SAT article, you will see that it formerly stood for Schoolastic Aptitude Test, or Scholastic Assessment Tests, but currently stands for nothing, just "SAT". Therefore, this bit of information is not true. Yes, it is useful, but it is still untrue. Perhaps another example could be used?

-mysekurity 22:32, 30 July 2005 (UTC)

Non-commercial book database?

The Book sources tool is excellent, but I was wondering if there are efforts to create a non-commercial, non-library database of book information. Amazon and other sites listed on the Book sources page come pretty close to cataloguing the many books and editions of books across the world... however, many times I can't tell if the information about a book (like who narrated the audio versions of The Terrible Hours ISBN 0060194804) is correct or complete. Some of the Category:Online_databases are good, but I don't know of any massive book sites.

The first 3 paragraphs of this article

are hugely useful to editors trying to figure out how to cite things; please consider not editing them very extensively. -Ikkyu2 20:48, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Links, but no basic info

I think the template should show basic info (title, author, publication date, etc.) at the top before all the links to find the book in various libraries and price comparison sites. As it is, clicking on an ISBN link shows nothing about the book itself. -- WhiteDragon 20:39, 8 March 2006 (UTC)

EAN and 13 digit ISBN

I ran across an article which listed a 13 digit ISBN for the book, prefixed with "ISBN-13". The link didn't work. These 13 digit ISBNs which incorporate an EAN are discussed at Isbn#EAN_format_used_in_barcodes.2C_and_planned_upgrade. Is there a plan to make MediaWiki and/or Wikipedia deal with 13 digit ISBN?--Larrybob 18:37, 14 April 2006 (UTC)

I'm wondering the same thing. I'm surprised that we haven't seen more discussion about this! --J. J. 20:40, 30 May 2006 (UTC)
At present, the automatic recognition only works for "ISBN 978-0-394-80016-5" form, not "ISBN-13 978-0-394-80016-5". The important thing is, the number of digits is not a problem. --KSmrqT 07:28, 10 June 2006 (UTC)
All ISBNs will become 13-digit from January 2007. Would it be possible, or desirable, for a bot to upgrade all the ISBNs in Wikipedia? Alternatively, is there any reason why this should not or could not be done?--Shantavira 11:57, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
I'm not sure if this would be desirable. I'd be curious what publication-industry experts would have to say about this. For example, Amazon has not mentioned anything about switching to ISBN-13; they still use a 10-digit ASIN/ISBN. Consequently, a lot of the Special:Booksources external links would be broken. However, it may be possible to tweak the Booksources code so that a Wikipedia ISBN-13 book would automatically link to the corresponding ASIN (using Amazon as an example again). This would be a little tricky since the "check digit" is different for ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 (e.g. ISBN 0-394-80016-8 uses an 8 at the end while the same book ISBN 978-0-394-80016-5 uses a 5 on ISBN-13). I'm not sure what suggest for future ISBN-13 compliance, but I think it's too early for a bot to upgrade all WP ISBNs. --J. J. 20:13, 19 June 2006 (UTC)
Just to clarify, as far as public interfaces are concerned, nothing should be done about this until 2007, but it would be as well to be prepared for the change.--Shantavira 18:54, 27 June 2006 (UTC)

Coding of Special:Booksources-like page for chemicals

Dear readers,

I am (mainly) active in the chemistry-area of the Wikipedia, where we have run into a 'content dispute' about external links to suppliers of (and other information about) specific chemicals. As a solution it was suggested to create a page like the Special:Booksources page (unique identifiers like the ISBN exist for chemicals, e.g. CAS-number and InChI). We have (just) started now to create a Wikipedia:Chemical sources-page, but is there anyone here, who could explain us more about the coding of the Special:Booksources (and possibly even help writing the appropriate page for the chemical sources, if that would be feasable???). Would be nice to start it of correctly from the beginning. I think for the coding-help it would be nice that you have some understanding about chemistry (but that is not necessary). Any help would be appreciated.

Could you please answer on Wikipedia Talk:Chemical sources, cheers! --Dirk Beetstra T C 08:18, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

Template: ISBN-13

I created {{ISBN-13}} (unfortunately, AFTER reading the above) without realizing {{ISBN}} and apparently just writing 'ISBN 1-4165-2051-1' worked without aid (I usually like colons too! Shrug). But the reality is the system is parsing both 10 and 13 digit ISBN's, so I'm tempted to just tag it {db-author}, but figured I'd check here to see if there was any use in the auto-cataloging I built into it that would be of use. {{ISBN}} could be easily modified to create an equivilent Category:10-digit ISBN cited, or 'whatever'. // FrankB 18:08, 8 July 2006 (UTC)

Since no one commented on the above, I'm tagging it with db-author for speedy delete.

Template:ISBN up for deletion

I ran across {{ISBN}} as nominated for deletion itself last night. If the link is still blue, and the nomination is still active, there's a link there to the Tfd. // FrankB 04:55, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

Yes, it would have been polite to inform the person who made the template when you nominated it. Stevage 06:34, 8 August 2006 (UTC)


Can the same trick be added to software to recognize ISSN as well? Currently we have to use template:ISSN for that. --Irpen 05:33, 17 November 2006 (UTC)

This would be extremely helpful. Does anyone know if/how this can be done? Skomorokh incite 15:22, 19 July 2007 (UTC)

Request for assistance

Request for assistance, please. New books are being issued 13-digit ISBN codes. How do we write those into articles (which currently support 10-digit ISBNs nicely)? thanks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 8 April, 2007.

Please note that you can sign your comments by appending four tildes ~~~~ to your Talk page message before you hit the 'Save page' button, and it expands automatically into your ID and the date. EdJohnston 20:24, 8 April 2007 (UTC)
The next section should answer your question. EdJohnston 19:01, 10 April 2007 (UTC)

Using 13-digit ISBNs in Wikipedia articles

In answer to the question above, there is no problem with using 13-digit ISBNs in Wikipedia articles. Currently for 10-digit ISBNs people write ISBN 0123456789. Notice that the ISBN is highlighted in blue, which happens because the Mediawiki software recognizes ISBNs and treats them specially. This behavior is known as 'ISBN magic'. The feature works just as well with 13-digit ISBNs. For instance, you can write ISBN 9780123456789 and this also gets the blue highlighting treatment. Inserting hyphens into the ISBN is accepted and should not affect any results you get by clicking on the ISBN. Just be sure not to write any punctuation after the word 'ISBN', or add anything extraneous, like 'ISBN-13 9780..' because any unexpected punctuation mark will spoil the ISBN magic. EdJohnston 20:24, 8 April 2007 (UTC)

As 10-digit ISBNs don't exist anymore, it is worth re-thinking whether they should be converted to ISBN-13's within Wikipedia using a robot? Also, it would be useful if the Wiki ISBN magic also worked on the prefixes "ISBN-10" and "ISBN-13" as well as "ISBN". HairyWombat 22:47, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

Adding this site to external links

Anyone objects adding to the external links section in ISBN article?

Gs1mo 14:54, 23 July 2007 (UTC)

I don't understand why this would be helpful to our readers. This page assumes you HAVE an ISBN-13, and you are a bookseller who wants to generate a barcode to use on a book. This is a highly-specialized requirement which is unlikely to be found in a typical reader of WP's ISBN articles. EdJohnston 03:28, 24 July 2007 (UTC)
With all respect - why not? 2/5k books get self-published daily. If you are living in the country that is reasonably well served you have Lulu or Bowker's who do partly your job, but very often you have to do all by yourself (including slapping the barcode on the back). Now this is not so trivial and readers still need a decent tool that does it and is standards compliant. The site I am suggesting, actually, does it right: inline with GS1 and BISG guidelines, providing the right hyphenation above the barcode, right q-zones, OCR-B font etc ... The link that is provided instead ( does not produce the standards compliant barcode. I would stop ranting here and would just say that it's worth reconsidering, IMHO. Speaking of the suggested site ISBN10 -> ISBN13 conversion might be useful though. Gs1mo 14:20, 24 July 2007 (UTC)
I'm afraid I don't see the point of your argument. This page is to help coordinate usage of ISBNs within Wikipedia. Such coordination does not require the ability to generate bar codes for self-published books. Know your audience! EdJohnston 21:30, 31 July 2007 (UTC)
You are right, my mistake. Chexov29 16:31, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

I'm verry confused

I've been trying to find the ISBN's a manga, for an article I'm revisioning, but what makes it hard is that it was never published in English, so every page I look up is in Japanese. My Japanese is limited, but what I can make out is I think I found them, but I get some other words; ASIN, ISBN-10, and ISBN-13. I'll just copy n paste what I found (from my sandbox):


  • [2] I think volumes 1-3: Publisher: 秋田書店 (1942)


  • [3] I think volume two: Publisher 秋田書店 (1974/07)


  • [4] unsure of volume: Publisher: 秋田書店



  • [5] volume 1: Publisher: 世界文化社 (1997/05)

ISBN-10: 4418975179 ISBN-13: 978-4418975174

  • [6] volume 2: Publisher: 世界文化社 (1997/08

ISBN-10: 4418975187 ISBN-13: 978-4418975181

  • [7] volume 3: Publisher: 世界文化社 (1997/10)

ISBN-10: 4418975217 ISBN-13: 978-4418975211

  • [8] volume 4: Publisher: 世界文化社 (1998/03)

ISBN-10: 4418975292 ISBN-13: 978-4418975297

  • [9] volume 5: Publisher: 世界文化社 (1998/10)

ISBN-10: 441898514X ISBN-13: 978-4418985142

  • [10] unsure of volume: Publisher: 世界文化社


  • [11] unsure of volume: Publisher: 世界文化社 (1999/10)

ISBN-10: 4418995323 ISBN-13: 978-4418995325

  • [12] unsure of the volume: Publisher: 世界文化社 (1999/10)

ISBN-10: 4418995315 ISBN-13: 978-4418995318


  • [13] I THINK it this is the Graphical book: Publisher: 角川書店 (1999/07)

ISBN-10: 4047016276 ISBN-13: 978-4047016279

  • [14] unsure of volume: Publisher: 角川書店 (2000/03)

ISBN-10: 4047016292 ISBN-13: 978-4047016293

  • [15] unsure of what it is: 出版社名:

角川書店 ISBNコード: 978-4-04-701629-3 (4-04-701629-2)

  • [16] unsure what it is: 出版社名:

角川書店 ISBNコード: 978-4-04-701627-9 (4-04-701627-6)

  • [17] unsure what it is: 出版社: 角川書店

ISBNコード: 9784047016279 9784047016293

So, what is ASIN, ISBN-10, and ISBN-13, and which code, do I list? Thank you for your help. THROUGH FIRE, JUSTICE IS SERVED! 02:33, 4 August 2007 (UTC)

Hey! Your signature is a bit large; see WP:SIG for what is generally allowed. In terms of the ISBNs:
  • I suggest you get rid of all the ASIN numbers. They are Amazon-specific, and some editors object to their use, unless they have high reference value for a hard-to-find book.
  • My personal opinion: for books published before 1 Jan 2007, give only the ISBN-10. For books published after that, use only the ISBN-13. If you don't know which it is, it is OK to just use ISBN-10s for all books, or ISBN-13s for all books.
  • Do *not* write "ISBN-10" or "ISBN-13" in your reference list; this will keep Wikimedia software from recognizing the ISBNs.
  • GOOD EXAMPLE ISBN 0123456780
  • BAD EXAMPLES ISBN: 01234567890, ISBN-10 01234567890
  • Do not include any punctuation or any Japanese characters between the word "ISBN" and the number itself. Same reason.
  • Any hyphenation that you find within the ISBN number is OK; Wikimedia software will ignore it. For instance ISBN 0-1234-5678-9 is OK.
EdJohnston 03:31, 4 August 2007 (UTC)
"unless they have high reference value for a hard-to-find book.": The books by 秋田書店 were originally published in the 1960s (dunno why Amazon says otherwise; I did some research); I dont know if Japan used ISBN or what. So ASIN is the only thing I could find. Verry hard to find info on the original publishing. But, when I do find more info, I'll get rid of them.
"My personal opinion: for books published before 1 Jan 2007, give only the ISBN-10.": Well if the books have an ISBN-10 and ISBN-13, wouldnt it indicate that it has been republished after 1 Jan 2007? So, would both still be relevant?

I'm still mainly in the process of finding info about these books, so I have not re-written it Wikipedia software could recognize. But thank you for your help. THROUGH FIRE, JUSTICE IS SERVED! 04:33, 5 August 2007 (UTC)

  • My only concern about BOTH ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 for a single entry is that the information is redundant. You are wasting space in the encyclopedia. (One is easily generated from the other using a simple algorithm).
  • I hope you have registered the problem caused by inserting your own punctuation between "ISBN" and the number.
  • I am still not convinced that your massive listing of Japanese-language references is going to be all that useful to the English-speaking reader. Perhaps you could find some way of summarizing your work, by saying how much was originally released in Japanese, so they could have some idea of whether the English releases match up with the Japanese originals. Also there's a bug in your signature. The 'Justice is served' part links to Special:Contributions/angelofeath275 which appears to me a misspelling of your user name. EdJohnston 17:30, 6 August 2007 (UTC)

That book itself was not released by an English company. When I try to find info about it in English, its only from people who have reviewed the anime based on it, and say little things like "it was based off of a manga from the 1960s from Satoru Ozawa". And I've said it was originally published in Japanese in my sandbox. THROUGH FIRE, JUSTICE IS SERVED! 03:10, 11 August 2007 (UTC)


Is there some kind of software glitch that erases ISBN numbers? I've seen this problem on several articles now where I had added the ISBN to the citation and later noticed that all the numbers have disappeared although "ISBN" is still there (see Police, for example). Anyone? bobanny 07:47, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

I put back four ISBNs in Police. (There was an old version from March that still had them). Let me know if they disappear again. EdJohnston 15:24, 7 August 2007 (UTC)

ISBN Checksum Formulas

I dislike using the "double mods" in the ISBN checksum formulas. By making things minus, you can use a single mod.

For the ISBN-10, I think this simplifies things.

check=(1*a + 2*b + 3*c + 4*d + 5*e + 6*f + 7*g + 8*h * 9*i) mod 11

For the ISBN-13, it might make things clearer or more complicated depending on your viewpoint.

check=(9*a + 7*b + 9*c + 7*d + 9*e + 7*f + 9*g + 7*h * 9*i + 7*j + 9*k + 7*l) mod 10

Temblast 13:32, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

Spaces in ISBNs - harmful or okay?

I found some pages that specify ISBN 1 2345 6789 0 and to my surprise, it works even though there are spaces rather than dashes between the digits. However, there are some irregularities with respect to 10/13 digits and whether they start with 978, 979 or something else, and when there are more than 10 or 13 digits. (E.g. ISBN 1234 5678, ISBN 1234 5678 9x, ISBN 1234 5678 90 123, ISBN 978 1234 5678 90, ISBN 978 1234 5678 9x, ISBN 978 1234 5678 90 123, ... can anybody predict how this works?) Without having seen the sourcecode, I suspect black magic regexp tricks. Should I go around and fix these ISBNs, changing the spaces to dashes? Are spaces considered harmful, even if the current regexp magically make them work? Should the regexp be changed, to discourage the use of spaces? --LA2 23:55, 4 September 2007 (UTC)

No, the spaces are fine. The advantage of the current pattern matching is that anything that looks like a well-formed ISBN to the human will also look like one to the computer, and it will be clickable. The only example you gave that puzzles me is ISBN 1234 5678 90 123, which has the right number of digits to be an ISBN-13. So the matcher must be checking the prefix as well as the number of digits. EdJohnston 00:54, 5 September 2007 (UTC)
I'm trying to use my script m:User:LA2/Extraktor as a "lint" for ISBNs, but my old regexp (ISBN [-0-9Xx]+) recognizes different patterns than MediaWiki's built-in one. Even if I allow whitespace, I want to catch (and report a warning for) the case where the trailing 123 are silently left unlinked. The ISBN-13 cannot end in an X, so ISBN 978 1234 5678 9x should be an error, just like ISBN 0 1234 x 5678 9. Apparently ISBNs cannot start with a dash or X, but any number of whitespace is OK, and trailing dashes after 10 digits are not included. ISBN -1234567890 ISBN x123456789 ISBN 1234567890 ISBN 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8-9- x. The way I'll solve this is to allow whitespace and any long sequence of digits and X, not starting with a dash or X and not ending in a dash. That gives me ISBN +[0-9][- 0-9Xx]+[0-9Xx]. Does that sound reasonable? Then in the resulting data, I can discover if there are 9, 11 or 14 or 15 digits following the ISBN word, if the checksum is wrong, or if something else is wrong. --LA2 10:40, 5 September 2007 (UTC)

ASIN definition and policy & video i.d. question

I gather from conversations above that the ASIN is an Amazon-specific number, and should only be used when no ISBN is available. Would someone with more experience in this project consider adding this to the main WP:ISBN article? I went there looking for that specific info, and had to pick through this whole talk page instead. Also very helpful in this article would be a statement such as, "Videos do not have ISBN numbers. Instead, Wiki policy is to identify them by....(whatever the answer is)." I'm not being lazy, I'm being honest: I don't know enough about what policy is on these issues to edit the WP:ISBN article myself. -- LisaSmall T/C 02:18, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

I'll try to compose a couple of sentences:

It may happen that a book is listed at Amazon with an ASIN (Amazon catalog number) for which the ISBN is hard or impossible to find. An editor who has such a reference should make every effort to locate an ISBN or an OCLC number, and use that in preference. If you find yourself falling back on the ASIN, use the {{ASIN}} template to refer to it, which allows the 'What links here' feature to find all such uses, in case ISBNs may be found later. Usage of ASIN numbers has been controversial in the past, some editors wanting them to be stamped out because of the commercial connection, others believing that ASIN numbers have reference value, and that removal of references is not justified under any circumstances. Hardly anyone would object to an editor going through reference lists and removing ASINs from books by replacing them with ISBNs. Such work is useful but time-consuming.

Comments are welcome. See Category talk:Articles with invalid ISBNs/Archive2#Eliminate ASINs? for more references to past Talk threads.
The story on videos is that large numbers of DVDs are now being issued with ISBNs printed on them that work perfectly well. Unfortunately Amazon is being puristic and doesn't associate ISBNs with DVDs. Oftentimes you can go into or another service and find an ISBN for a DVD, which you have every right to use. is wishy-washy and doesn't prevent the use of ISBNs for DVDs, though they disallow them for CDs (unless they are audio books), and pretty much everyone observes *that* rule. EdJohnston 03:50, 6 September 2007 (UTC)

Another useful discussion about ISBN-10, ISBN-13, and whether to mess with existing ISBN-10 refs

I am moving the discussion below to here from my talk page, because I think that it may be useful for other people who look into this same issue in the future. — Lumbercutter 15:07, 10 September 2007 (UTC)


Regarding this edit of yours: You appear to be misinformed. Yes, the checksum is different, but it is trivial to compute. These are books from 1970--1987 that never had any ISBN-13 and there never was any transition period, either for them or for Wikipedia. The transition period only apply to books published during 2006 or so. In fact, as I think you discovered, writing "ISBN-13" or "ISBN-10" (rather than just "ISBN") before the digits in a Wikipedia article is outright harmful, as it stops the link to the booksources page from being created. If you believe that all old ISBN-10s in Wikipedia (or are these three books special?) should be changed/upgraded to ISBN-13, that would be both a novel idea and a major project, for which you should present some defense, preferrably on the Wikipedia talk:ISBN page. --LA2 01:34, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Hi LA2,
It seems like you didn't read the very WP talk page that you referred me to (which, granted, I was not aware of), nor the transition page that I cited in my edit summary. Here are responses to your various points:
  1. "These are books from 1970--1987 that never had any ISBN-13": That is half correct: they never had one, until 2005, when it was assigned retroactively, being equivalent to the existing UPC code adaptation of the (old) ISBN (= 978 + ISBN-10 + recalc'd check digit). Now they do have one.
  2. "there never was any transition period, either for them or for Wikipedia": This novel idea is news to the people who run the ISBN system, who created an "transition" page several years ago to explain the transition period (which was January 2005 to January 2007) during which booksellers and libraries (and their software suppliers) were tasked with creating and confirming the ability to serve correctly the desired book to a user who inputed either the old ISBN (ISBN-10) or the new one (ISBN-13).
  3. "The transition period only apply to books published during 2006 or so.": Incorrect. It was the period during which systems were updated and tested for the ability to identify any book in the supply chain by a 13-digit ISBN, as explained at the "transition" page.
  4. "In fact, as I think you discovered, writing "ISBN-13" or "ISBN-10" (rather than just "ISBN") before the digits in a Wikipedia article is outright harmful, as it stops the link to the booksources page from being created.": Yes, I was aware of that earlier, and it is true, but (a) there have been discussions at Wikipedia talk:ISBN about whether that should be changed; and (b) those discussions have now become moot, because (1) wiki ISBN magic works with both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13, as long as you head the number with "ISBN#" (# representing a word space); and (2) because, as explained at the "transition" page, "ISBN" now officially means "ISBN-13" anyway. If you click on a 13-digit wiki-magic'd ISBN for a book from the 1966-2006 period, for example, ISBN 978-0-7591-0134-0, you find that it successfully brings you to catalog listings for the correct book (in this case, Harris's Cultural Materialism, although the person who wrote the ref used the rev ed ISBN (2001) while citing the 1st ed (1980), but that's a common, usually harmless mistake).
  5. "If you believe that all old ISBN-10s in Wikipedia […] should be changed/upgraded to ISBN-13,": Yes, actually I do, although there is no rush, and it may take some years, and I don't plan to do it all myself—
  6. "(or are these three books special?)": Of course not—
  7. "that would be both a novel idea […]": Of course it's not novel—several other people mentioned the idea at Wikipedia talk:ISBN over a year ago—
  8. "and a major project, […]": Yes, I agree with that, although, as others have mentioned at Wikipedia talk:ISBN, it could be partially automated with bots—
  9. "for which you should present some defense, preferrably on the Wikipedia talk:ISBN page.": Yes, you're right about that, although in reading the existing discussion there, where this idea has already been presented, I see that this may or may not eventually get done, and may or may not need to ever get done (because the presently existing backwards compatibility of ISBN-10 may not go away in future years), and either way, I'm not worried about making this topic a new priority to-do item for myself.

In sum, IMO, the best thing to do for one average WP editor like myself is just to leave existing ISBNs on Wikipedia alone unless one happens to be editing nearby anyway, in which case, if one cares to bother, one can plug the old ISBN (ISBN-10) into's converter and overwrite with the new ISBN, keeping the wiki-magic syntax (ISBN#) (# representing a word space) intact.

Cheers, — Lumbercutter 12:18, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

I will strongly disagree on #5. The project to change all articles is too big and brings no benefits, as ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 work fine side by side. Old printed books have ISBN-10 and that is what people will enter when they cite that book, and there is no reason that ISBN-10 would stop to work in Wikipedia. Therefore, Wikipedia did not have any "transition period" (#2). There was a point in time when Wikipedia started to accept ISBN-13, but ISBN-10 never stopped working, and thus no period. --LA2 12:59, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Good points. Responses:
  1. "The project to change all articles is too big": I guess that's up to individual opinion, and I do respect your opinion on that. IMO, though, bots could make it manageable. Also, if someone updates individual ISBNs on a non-global basis, that is still OK (even though non-Wikipedia-wide) because it is one step in the direction of "actively discouraging its (ISBN-10's) use".
  2. "[The project] brings no benefits, as ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 work fine side by side": You're right about that at present. I guess that that will still be true 5 or 15 years from now, although my main impetus for liking the idea of Wikipedia-wide conversion is the possibility that eventually (years-decades) it will become unusual to ID books by ISBN-10 and individual sellers and libraries will screw up in supporting the old ISBNs (even though they theoretically are supposed to maintain the capability indefinitely).
  3. "Old printed books have ISBN-10 and that is what people will enter when they cite that book": You are definitely right about that.
  4. "there is no reason that ISBN-10 would stop to work in Wikipedia": I guess that you are probably right about that, as I think about it more—although the same uncertainty as above, regarding possible eventual lack of support outside Wikipedia (which would make Wikipedia's outbound links unusable), applies.
  5. "Wikipedia did not have any "transition period" […]": You're right. (But I was referring to the industry's transition period.)
In sum, I think that you are probably right about the backwards-compatibility being here to stay permanently. At the same time, I think that I will still employ the practice that I mentioned earlier ("the best thing to do for one average WP editor like myself is just to leave existing ISBNs on Wikipedia alone unless one happens to be editing nearby anyway, in which case, if one cares to bother, one can plug the old ISBN (ISBN-10) into's converter and overwrite with the new ISBN, keeping the wiki-magic syntax (ISBN#) (# representing a word space) intact"), because it will help to ensure that the link will keep working years or decades into the future. However, I promise not to chastise any WP contributor for entering the ISBN-10 of their references! I will either ignore it or quietly update it in WikiGnome fashion.
Thanks for the discussion—it helped me to think more completely about the issue than I had previously. Ciao!
— Lumbercutter 15:00, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

In previous discussions on this talk page, one can find phrases such as "All ISBNs will become 13-digit from January 2007" (June 2006) and "10-digit ISBNs don't exist anymore" (August 2007). These are misunderstandings. My old printed books between 1970 and 2006 have printed 10-digit ISBNs and will continue to have this for ever. When I cite these books in Wikipedia, search them in library catalogs, or add them to LibraryThing, I will continue to enter the 10-digit ISBN. What did change in 2007 is that all new books are now assigned 13-digit ISBNs. What ended is that 10-digit ISBNs are not assigned anymore. But existing books didn't stop having their 10-digit ISBNs. Library systems and other tools that handle ISBNs will have to understand both 10- and 13-digit ISBNs for the rest of eternity. This is what the MediaWiki software does, and that is fine. It is possible to convert a 10-digit ISBN to a 13-digit one by prefixing 978- and recomputing the final checksum digit, but people who cite books or search in library catalogs, based on a printed book from 1970-2006, will not do this. --LA2 20:35, 10 September 2007 (UTC)

Anyone still see a need to change the page?

The last two entries in this Talk page address ASINs and the 10 versus 13 issues. I actually created some language (see boxed item) for the ASIN issue. My assumption is that the discussion has quiesced, and there is no longer a strong feeling that either of these issues requires an update to WP:ISBN? EdJohnston 00:36, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Why not just fix it? ISBN-13 ISBN-10

The 2 common ISBN formats below (for the same book) are not automatically made into ISBN search links by the wikipedia software:

ISBN-10: 1413304540
ISBN-13: 978-1413304541

I have read comment after comment on several pages, and finally figured out that the wikipedia software will not accept this format. WHY NOT JUST FIX IT?

After 2 years as a Wikipedia editor I figured this out, and only after a determined search.

Most people just paste in whatever ISBN number they find into reference links, ... if they bother to paste in ISBN numbers at all.

Most of them, like me, do not learn of this great auto-ISBN-linking feature except by accident. Then they see that it works inconsistently, and then most people just no longer care, and figure it is just more buggy software. Then many editors stop pasting ISBN numbers in at all. Why bother?

Instead of asking the impossible of millions of editors, why not just change the code for this ISBN function so that it accepts ISBN numbers in this format too?

Please see also the clarified introduction to Wikipedia:Book sources. --Timeshifter (talk) 03:31, 17 November 2007 (UTC)

Yelling at people is not going to get this fixed. Please instead comment at [18]. Superm401 - Talk 03:41, 29 April 2008 (UTC)


Is there a version of this for bibcode, as well as WP:ISBN, WP:ISSN, WP:PMID ? (talk) 08:35, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

Ok, I've just been informed of {{bibcode}}. It would be nice to have a corresponding WP:bibcode (talk) 08:47, 1 August 2008 (UTC)


There seems to be a missing documentation page for DOIs, the equivalent of WP:ISBN and WP:PMID. WP:DOI is a redirect to the DOI correction bot. From template talk:doi, it seems to function somewhat differently from ISBNs? (talk) 09:10, 1 August 2008 (UTC)

Book Sources page not as clear as should be

OK, I click on an ISBN in an article. I then get to a page which says "Search for book sources" with my ISBN in a box and a very prominent "Go" button, so I click on that ... and it gets me nowhere.

Could I suggest that as most readers who get to that page are going to be coming in from ISBN links from articles (isn't that so?), the page should be better designed for them. Everything above the map seems to be aimed at people who have gone directly to that page to search for a book (who? how? if this is a common use, perhaps there needs to be a separate "Book search" page?).

For the reader following an ISBN link, it would be better if the page started with "This page links to catalogs of libraries, booksellers, and other book sources where you will be able to search for the book with ISBN 9780715141533. If you arrived at this page by clicking an ISBN number link in a Wikipedia page, then the links below (those labeled "find this book") search for the specific book using that ISBN number. " (ie the text below the map). It would also be helpful if the TOC started at the top of the page, so was more conspicuous and less far down to scroll. PamD (talk) 08:44, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

Yeah, that is a little weird, clicking GO just preloads the links below (which we have to do, since we can't favour any one search service). Why don't you go ahead and change the wording to what you think would be most helpful? Be bold! Rest assured, other people will be watching and will change your changes - but go ahead and try something out... Franamax (talk) 09:33, 26 October 2008 (UTC)
Oww - I'm an idiot, it's a special page. So the page text is hidden somewhere in project space and can't be changed by us peons - d'ohh! Will look into this further, with red face. Franamax (talk) 09:38, 26 October 2008 (UTC)
I'd propose the following text be substituted into MediaWiki:Booksources-summary:
This page helps you to search for book sources from the ISBN number. Enter the ISBN number in the box and click "Go", then click any of the "Find this book" links below. To find the book at a library near you, enter the ISBN number and click on the map. The ISBN number is either 10 or 13 characters, spaces and dashes don't matter.
Is this better? It's much like your suggested text but a little more general. Or feel free to propose your own (exact) text. Franamax (talk) 10:05, 26 October 2008 (UTC)
And I moved the TOC up beside the map - may be some formatting issues though, I've asked for advice elsewhere. Franamax (talk) 10:44, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

Auto hyphenation and auto complain on ISBN errors.

I'd like to propose two improvements to the ISBN magic.

First, Is there any way that the ISBN magic can take the 10 or 13 digit ISBN number and autohyphenate it? I think there is enough information at the ISBN to at least start on the design of such a product. We have enough information to autohyphenate any US English speaking country ISBNs (Group 0 or 1) and information on which numbers are in each group at .

The comment from Cyhawk above indicates that the information splitting out the publishers is available.

Secondly, While there is a message that indicates that ISBN is wrong on the Book sources page, would it be worthwhile to actually add a message to the output of the Wikimagic on the individual pages? maybe just (bad ISBN) after the link link to the special book sources page?

I'd be happy to work on these, but I'm sure I'd have to learn some level of programming in something...Naraht (talk) 19:27, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

The hyphenation of ISBNs is mostly aesthetics. Just as AWB is not supposed to be used to remove minor things like extra blank lines, I don't believe this is worth it. (It doesn't justify the cost of an edit, unless the page has to be changed for some other reason). I wouldn't discourage a new pass through the database to detect invalid ISBNs one more time :-) EdJohnston (talk) 20:32, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
I agree it isn't worth the time of an edit, I want the ISBN Wikimagic to do it for me. :) As for the invalid ISBN's, Wikipedia:WikiProject Check Wikipedia has that as some of the things it checks for. Isn't a complete sweep every day, and they just added it as a check, but if you like fixing those, its a good place to start.Naraht (talk) 20:52, 14 April 2009 (UTC)

This may be about aesthetics, but it's actually part of the ISBN standard for how the numbers must be presented when people are going to be reading them. The ISBN manual says, "The elements must each be separated clearly by hyphens or spaces when displayed in human readable form." Here are some hyphenation instructions that may be helpful for programming.  —Chris Capoccia TC 07:53, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

also, here's some ruby code that may be useful as an example.  —Chris Capoccia TC 08:02, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

OK, we have the design, now where do we go to get the code and who do we have to contact to make such a change?Naraht (talk) 12:27, 20 May 2009 (UTC)

if worldcat can manage automatic hyphenation,[19] we should be able to do it in wikipedia too.  —Chris Capoccia TC 10:38, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

Agreed. I'm in on anything that is needed, I just don't know where we would go to find the code.Naraht (talk) 12:19, 29 May 2009 (UTC)
i think the easiest way would be to create a new template, maybe {{ISBNh}} that takes a 10 or 13 digit isbn number (with or without hyphens/spaces), verifies it, (re)hyphenates it and links it. then all the citation templates can be revised to use this new template. The other choice is to get wikimedia to accept a patch and get wikipedia to upgrade.  —Chris Capoccia TC 16:24, 29 May 2009 (UTC)

Updating an out-of-print edition to an in-print one

Is it correct to update an out-of-print ISBN to an in-print one? Or is it to be added?

I believe it is correct to update the ISBN. The out-of-print ISBN in the article might be the sixth edition or printing and the one in print is the tenth edition or printing. What's the point of freezing in the article the edition or printing available in 2003 or 2004? patsw (talk) 03:07, 10 May 2009 (UTC)
If it's used in a reference, we shouldn't update the ISBN (or any other publication details) unless we can explicitly verify that the new edition is the same. There's a reason we encourage giving the edition & date of a cited work - it's because quite often material is altered or removed in later editions, and we want to cite a source which definitely contains it! Shimgray | talk | 13:53, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
I understand the point for an ISBN given as a reference for an updated non-fiction work. This comes up frequently in mass market paperbacks and ISBN's entered into the Wikipedia in an infobox. I believe the publishers reissues and assigns a new ISBN not because the text changes but because they want to reprice it. Perhaps the best way to handle it is to put "(out of print)" after and the old ISBN and add the new. patsw (talk) 20:26, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Yes, keeping both ISBNs is the safest. There are also some libraries that allow you to search their holdings by ISBN, and they may be keeping the old edition and not the new. EdJohnston (talk) 20:42, 14 May 2009 (UTC)
Bleh. ISBNs in infoboxes are a bit of a bad idea anyway, to be honest, but in that case then the most recent mass-market edition is probably best. Shimgray | talk | 21:48, 14 May 2009 (UTC)

Straw poll: Reader choice or editor choice?

I'd like to get an informal sense of other editors' views. Given a reference to a fact in a widely available book (with an ISBN): Does "best practice" provide a URL to my favorite (perhaps partial) online copy of the text, or just the ISBN, and let the reader choose a source? Would you send a reader off to's search-inside feature, or to's page on a book, or would you provide the ISBN and let the reader choose from hundreds of possible sources?

(Reason for this question: I've now been firmly informed by other editors that links to websites like Google Books are both never appropriate and strongly preferred.) WhatamIdoing (talk) 16:41, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

without seeing exact examples, i would also say that links to google books could be either inappropriate or preferred.  —Chris Capoccia TC 17:35, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
Always link to the ISBN because this links to a special page Wikipedia:Book sources. This page describes where user preferences for ISBN-linking can be created User:Lunchboxhero/monobook.js. If the book itself is (a) assigned an ISBN, (2) out-of-print, (3) not available in libraries, and (4) (yet) available on a web site, that rare case would be an exception where you would also include a URL. patsw (talk) 02:38, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Chris, I'm actually hoping to identify the general rule of thumb, without reference to any specific examples. There will always be room for WP:IAR on this issue. WhatamIdoing (talk) 03:29, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Comment - I don't understand the question. An editor is *always* going to provide an ISBN in the citation, if he has discovered one, and in some cases they will go to the trouble of finding the URL to a copy at If the book is included over at Google Books then some form of searching inside the book is most likely enabled, and this is a concrete benefit to the reader. I don't see the point of a link to in most cases, due to all the clicking and advertising you have to wade through. Anyway, it is unlikely that a style issue like this could be centrally enforced due to the variety of opinions. For pre-1970 books that don't have an ISBN I suggest an {{oclc}} number. EdJohnston (talk) 04:04, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
I'm mostly with EdJ here. If there's an ISBN number available, it should always be provided in the reference(/footnote/note). If an online link to a full or partial copy is available it should be given too, and the most complete one is the preference IMO. {{cite book}} has fields for both isbn= and url=. As far as Google Books in particular, I think we're still waiting for the settlement to be finalized to be sure whether it's a copyright-infringing site or not. And apparently the DOJ has begun an investigation into the anti-trust aspects of that settlement too... Franamax (talk) 04:25, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
I assume the only Google Books uncertainty is with what they call 'snippet view'. (What is used for books still under copyright where they don't seem to have any agreement with the publisher). Some books are under snippet view only, while many are more generous. Even with snippet view, Google must believe that their limited use of the book text falls under fair use. EdJohnston (talk) 05:11, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Oh, it's wacky stuff. :) Google certainly started off thinking it was fair use, and $79.5 million later (2.b, 2.c) they still say they were right all along (2nd WHEREAS in the preamble). Yes, snippet view is one of the Display Uses (1.48) under the settlement, if it's classified (3.2) as a Display Book (1.47). This is all moot though, presumably Google is now obeying those settlement terms anyway, so we don't have to worry anymore about linking to a site carrying widespread copyright violations. Maybe an antitrust violator, but not copyright. But now I see the final setttlement won't be heard 'til October, so I shouldn't have brought it up anyway! Franamax (talk) 06:08, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Ed: The ISBN magic word takes you to a page that provides a link to Google Books (and hundreds of other options). Is a URL to Google Books (for example) redundant to the ISBN magic word? Should you include both, or is the ISBN by itself the better choice? If I provide a URL to Google Books, and everyone else prefers Project Gutenberg (or the other way around), am I inappropriately pushing readers to my personal favorite online source for books?
To give an example: Imagine a book that's linked to right now (Special:Linksearch shows some 40K of such links, although most are not in the main namespace). Would you change the link to point to your favorite, less-commercial online source (and add the ISBN), or would you substitute the ISBN for a link? WhatamIdoing (talk) 17:11, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
I don't see why people think that the ISBN is an *alternative* to using some other URL. The {{cite book}} template has both an 'isbn=' parameter and a 'url=' parameter. In the past there have been big controversies about linking to Amazon but I don't think any consensus was reached there. In my opinion the {{ASIN}} template should be avoided. Is anyone suggesting that a link to Google Books is incompatible with using an ISBN? I recently spent some time adding things to the reference list at Henry the Navigator. Many books in that list are rare, old, or hard to find, and I chose urls that I thought would be helpful to the reader. If somebody (or a bot) came through and undid all my url choices I'd not be happy. Though I often set up urls to go to Google Books, other items in that reference list are already linked to full copies at Gutenberg and I certainly wouldn't undo those. Some of these books have editions published in different centuries. Five of the books are old enough to lack ISBNs. The choices of the editor who added the reference should not be lightly undone. (There is a risk of losing information that was patiently gathered). As a reader I find Wikipedia:Booksources tedious to use. If a URL can give immediate book details in one click, with no customization of my monobook, I think it should be provided. Nobody is forced to click on the URL, they can still go through the ISBN link. EdJohnston (talk) 18:45, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
But if a link of equal quality is available, but to a less commercial site, isn't that a better choice? If you put in a link to Google Books and I changed it to point to Project Gutenberg instead, or to Wikisource, would you get all bent out of shape? (Also, when you discuss books from different centuries, I'm not sure you're staying within What's "widely available" parameter.) Franamax (talk) 21:04, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Returning to the original question (and sorry if I sidetracked anything):
  • As above, the ISBN number should always be there if it's available (or a link to a LOC accession record for pre-ISBN works). These give a neutral reference to the fact the book exists.
  • The only purpose of a direct URL link that I can see is if the reader can follow the link to view the specific text you are citing. If the specific text is viewable online, then the least commercial online source should be linked. I'd personally rate Google as a little less in-your-face than Amazon, just a little though.
  • And if the cited text isn't available online, there's no purpose to a direct link. We're not in the business of helping people to buy books, they can figure that out for themselves. Franamax (talk) 21:22, 26 May 2009 (UTC)
Since the URL question is hard, I'm happy to divert to the subsidiary question of what to do for pre-ISBN books. (1) OCLC can be used to find books in libraries worldwide, using, while Library of Congress is US-centric, (2) Many valid Library of Congress catalog numbers from before 1960 can't be looked up online anyway, in the LoC computer system. I think {{OCLC}} should be preferred to {{LCCN}}. EdJohnston (talk) 22:44, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

similar page for audio recording codes?

Most audio recordings have UPC or equivalent numbers that uniquely identify them. Can we set up a similar page for those recordings? I don't know what the appropriate search engines are, but we could start with the obvious ones.

The same might be said for other media - perhaps a general UPC locator? +sj+ 23:43, 30 July 2009 (UTC)

Specific page number references

Certain book sources allow links to specific pages of a book. Modifying the ISBN magic to allow input of the page number to forward to any book sources that can take it would be advantageous, allowing for quick verification of facts and other (I'm sure innovative) uses. Google Books accepts "&pg=PA" followed by the page number and jumps directly to the page in question if available; I'm sure others can do the same. Otherwise specific links to Google Books (etc.) are be needed which causes provider preference, or a ISBN+page template which causes more fragmentation, just for a page reference. Thoughts or ideas? Int21h (talk) 02:02, 14 November 2009 (UTC)

Notice: bot request for ISBN reformatting task

Please be advised of my bot request to reformat ISBNs following the guidelines on this page: Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval/RjwilmsiBot 6. Rjwilmsi 20:19, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

ISBNs and hyphens

Initial discussion

One characteristic of hyphenated ISBNs which I find highly undesirable is that the hyphenated versions can wrap at the hyphens. When wrapping occurs, which is frequent, they are difficult to read and look bad. Also hyphenated ISBNs are more difficult to select and copy. For these reasons, I personally prefer the unhyphenated numbers. Worldcat omits the hyphens altogether (thus, those ISBNs can be selected with a double-click and easily copied). adds a single hyphen (those ISBNs must be selected using click and drag, which is more difficult and time consuming). I don't understand why we need to add hyphens to the ISBNs in the Wikipedia at all, when the unhyphenated ones appear to be just as accurate and easier to use. --Robert.Allen (talk) 03:14, 18 February 2011 (UTC)

This page and ISBN explain the use of hyphens. Your point about wrapping may be a legitimate concern. I've checked, and mediawiki does not pick up ISBNs specified with a non-breaking hyphen, so I can't see what can immediately be done. What I suggest is that you post on the village pump technical about whether the mediawiki software could be enhanced to ensure ISBNs are non-wrapped on display; this could be a feature request to the mediawiki bugzilla. Rjwilmsi 08:14, 18 February 2011 (UTC)
Since you are the one who proposes to add hyphens, you should be the one to request the change to the Wikisoftware. Even if this change is made, I am still opposed to adding the hyphens. I did some direct searches on Google with ISBN 978-0-521-43437-9 and ISBN 9780521434379 (I did not use Wikipedia's Booksource): the hyphenated form mostly fails to turn up the proper book, whereas the unhyphenated form works well. I also searched the Library of Congress online catalog. The unhyphenated form turned up the book, whereas the hyphenated one did not. Regardless of the official rules calling for hyphenation (or spaces, even worse), in the real world hyphens are hardly used at all on the web. Because of these search results, I am even more opposed to adding the hyphens on the Wikipedia which is primarily a web resource and should reflect actual practice. --Robert.Allen (talk) 19:33, 18 February 2011 (UTC)
Wikipedia's Book Source works by removing the hyphens. There is no particular reason to expect our readers to know this; and we will mislead any reader who tries to use the hypjenated ISBN in the wrong external source. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 21:43, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
  • I oppose the addition of hyphens to ISBN-13's for the above reasons. Please shut down the bot which is doing this without community consensus (BAG is not the community). Geometry guy 21:09, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

ISBN usage on English Wikipedia as of January 2011

Here are some stats from the January 2011 database dump of the English Wikipedia. This dump was prior to the commencement of my bot task. Notes:

  • stats are based on mainspace only, if a given ISBN is cited multiple times it will be counted multiple times.
  • stats will be slightly off due to a small % of existing malformatted ISBNs (I think less than 0.1%), so I'll quote to the nearest thousand.
  • ISBNs counted are either in |isbn= field of a citation template, or any ISBN using ISBN magic word.
  • I have only written hyphenation checking logic for books in English (language code 0 or 1), therefore have no stats on hyphenation use for books in other languages.
  • ISBN standard conformant hyphenation means three hyphens for ISBN-10, four for ISBN-13 and in the right place per range rules at ISBN.
  • ISBN standard non-conformant hyphenation may mean no hyphenation, partial hyphenation or full hyphenation with incorrect position per ISBN standard.
Category Count
Total number of ISBNs on Wikipedia 1,105,000
English ISBNs with ISBN standard conformant hyphenation 481,000
English ISBNs with ISBN standard non-conformant hyphenation 459,000
ISBNs with either ISBN standard non-conformant hyphenation, or non-English (hyphenation not checked) 623,000

I can provide technical details of stats generation on request, if need be. Rjwilmsi 22:28, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

"Correct" and "incorrect" should not be used to frame a discussion. I would like to know more for ISBN-13s, namely the proportions of no hyphens or one hyphen to four or more hyphens. Geometry guy 22:41, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
Would you be happier with "hyphenation conforming to the ISBN standard"? LeadSongDog come howl! 23:00, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
Correct/incorrect are indeed with reference to the ISBN standard. I've changed to "ISBN standard conformant" and "ISBN standard non-conformant". Rjwilmsi 23:17, 23 February 2011 (UTC)
That still frames the discussion. However, I'm more interested in the data than the terminology, so thanks for supplying it below. I read from the (evidently rounded) data that 142,000 out of 232,000 ISBN-13s onwiki use at most one hyphen, compared to 90,000 which use more. This (more than 3:2) ratio is different from the general picture above. Geometry guy 23:37, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

Breakdown of ISBN-13 hyphen usage

Stats on same basis as above, but only for ISBN-13 (any language book). A reminder that the ISBN standard is 4 hyphens for ISBN-13. Rjwilmsi 23:22, 23 February 2011 (UTC)

ISBN-13 Total
Any hyphenation 232,000
no hyphens 93,000
>= 1 hyphens 139,000
>= 2 hyphens 90,000
>= 3 hyphens 89,000
>= 4 hyphens 87,000
>= 5 hyphens 82

Proposal to remove hyphens from Wikipedia ISBNs

Currently there is an effort to add hyphens to all Wikipedia ISBNs. Unfortunately this gives some unexpected results. If one searches with the hyphenated number, e.g., 0-671-63837-8, using the standard Wikipedia search box, the current Wikipedia search engine turns up irrelevant articles. Searching with the unhyphenated number turns up articles citing the ISBN. This could be confusing to users who do not realize they must first remove the hyphens before performing the search. In addition, although a few publisher web sites use the hyphens and are searchable with the hyphenated number, most do not. The publisher websites that do use hyphens are also searchable with the unhyphenated ISBN, whereas those that do not are not searchable with the hyphenated number. In fact, on most of the web, the searches I have tried with the unhyphenated number were far more successful at finding relevant pages than were searches with the hyphens. (This seems to also include the Library of Congress online catalog.) I therefore propose that at the current time all hyphens should be removed from ISBNs on the Wikipedia, and that it should be Wikipedia policy that hyphens not be used. --Robert.Allen (talk) 19:03, 25 February 2011 (UTC)

This is the most interesting proposal I have seen on the issue. It would be deferring to practicality over beauty. (The hyphenated ISBNs look nicer). I do see the logic of the Library of Congress, the British Library and Amazon choosing to avoid the hyphens. The fact that our own search box does the wrong thing when searching for a hyphenated ISBN is telling. It is still a bit troublesome that we would be overriding the decision of the original editor who chose to put in the hyphens. I can still imagine a bot cleaning up wrongly-hyphenated ISBNs by removing the hyphens completely. EdJohnston (talk) 19:18, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
You should advertise this broader, VP most likely. —  HELLKNOWZ  ▎TALK 20:56, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
  • Endorse hyphenation. Saying same as on the MOS talk. ISBN international manuals: both ISBN-10 and ISBN-13 require hyphenation – quoting, "[ISBN10] must be separated clearly by hyphens or spaces" and "The elements [of ISBN13] must each be separated clearly by hyphens or spaces when displayed in human readable form." What Google Books/Amazon/Library of Congress do is each one's own business. But as we generally follow ISO standards and such, so should we follow this one. Hyphens separate elements of the ISBN. While stripping is easy, hyphenating back requires look-ups with some ISBN look-up service. Wrapping issue can be solved with a little CSS on MediaWiki's part. Google books/Amazon searches are really for them to fix. We can fix Mediawiki search. Mediawiki ISBN magic word recognises both. In the end, neither variant is BROKEN. —  HELLKNOWZ  ▎TALK 18:31, 24 February 2011 (UTC)
Where is the policy saying the Wikipedia follows ISO standards? Is this an ISO standard? Where is the Wikipedia policy that says we must slavishly follow the ISBN rule, when most of the world does not? Some rules should be ignored. For instance, the Wikipedia manual of style tells us to avoid single quotes even when the rules tell us to, because of their effect on search results (see MOS:PUNCT). We can choose to ignore this ISBN rule, if it is advantageous to do so. And we will certainly not be alone in doing that. (By the way WorldCat does not use hyphens either.) --Robert.Allen (talk) 22:53, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
(edit conflict) As I said: "we generally follow." Where is the policy that we don't? ISBN is ISO. Quotes are not a part of ISO standartization, rather an example of conflicting English style guidelines. —  HELLKNOWZ  ▎TALK 23:15, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
Can you link the MOS talk? I would like to read it. [Update: I found it here, thanks for mentioning it.] I still don't see any advantage to the Wikipedia in following this rule, and plenty of disadvantages. We should at least wait until the problems are fixed on the Wikipedia before proceeding with adding the hyphens. And this will still not address the problem with the hyphenated form that actually exists on the web in general. We do not live in a vacuum. --Robert.Allen (talk) 23:29, 25 February 2011 (UTC)
One possibility is that the search end be modified to add an extra search when someone includes a 10 or 13 digit number (including the ISBN dashes in their proper position) and removing the dashes when they are presented in an ISBN format (or heck, any 10-20 character string made up of digits and dashes). 10- and 13- digit numbers are otherwise rare search terms (we're not a phone book) so this would not be expected to put a strain on the servers. (And I am surprised that Google doesn't do this already). Then we can commit to dashes or no dashes. --MASEM (t) 00:04, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

Unfortunately, practicality cuts both ways, as usual. Hyphenated numbers are much easier to copy and remember manually (like phone numbers); unhyphenated numbers work better if you're cutting and pasting. Some people do one, and some sources adapt to them; some do the other. Septentrionalis PMAnderson 01:02, 26 February 2011 (UTC)

Robert.Allen raises a fair point that there is an existing issue with searching Wikipedia by ISBN (I don't see much issue with searching the web from Wikipedia by ISBN since Special:Booksources already performs the same search regardless of hyphenation or spacing of the input ISBN). However, even if we removed all hyphenation a user could still legitimately run a search using a hyphenated or spaced ISBN, and still not get the right results. Robert.Allen's proposal does not resolve the issue. Therefore I'm convinced the solution to the search issue must be to improve the search, as suggested already. Perhaps we could ask for MediaWiki to have a special search feature whereby you could search for "ISBN 123456789X" (no hyphenation) or "ISBN 1-234-56789-X" (some hyphenation) or any other hyphenation variation and get the right results, independent of input hyphenation and hyphenation on the article pages. Rjwilmsi 10:00, 26 February 2011 (UTC)
I'm not sure why user Rjwilmsi says omitting hyphens does not resolve the issue. It does resolve the issue because searching the Wikipedia with the unhyphenated ISBN turns up the hyphenated as well as the unhyphenated forms as a target. However, using the hyphenated form fails to turn them up. If a user copies a hyphenated ISBN directly from an article, without using Wikipedia's Special:Booksources, and uses it to search either the Wikipedia or the web, the hyphens will have to be removed before the search will be fruitful, but the user may not be aware of this limitation. Special:Booksources only gives a limited number of choices for searching, and we should NOT require our readers to use it in order to use the ISBN successfully as a book identifier. --Robert.Allen (talk) 21:04, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

Wikipedia ISBN policies

Wikipedia policy with regard to ISBNs should be to enhance the utility of the ISBN as a book identifier. Adding hyphens enormously reduces the utility of the ISBN when searching the Wikipedia and the web. Allowing ISBN-10s in place of ISBN-13s also reduces the utility of the ISBN, since a user must convert the ISBN-10 to an ISBN-13 and search using two different numbers. I again suggest that we remove hyphens from all Wikipedia ISBNs and convert all Wikipedia ISBNs to ISBN-13s. It is not a problem if editors add ISBN-10s (which may be all they have available in a printed source) and/or ISBNs with hyphens, because these can easily be converted using bots. --Robert.Allen (talk) 21:31, 12 April 2011 (UTC)

This article currently says:

  • Use dashes if they are included, as they divide the number into meaningful parts; the placement of dashes varies between books.

This is bad policy and should be changed to the following:

  • Dashes or hyphens should not be used as they greatly reduce the utility of the ISBN as a book identifier when searching either the Wikipedia or the web in general.

If there is no consensus against it, I will make this change. --Robert.Allen (talk) 22:44, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

I prefer it as it is. Moving away from the ISBN standard is not a good idea. Mr Stephen (talk) 23:04, 22 April 2011 (UTC)
This is in no way a standard. The hyphenated form was formulated long before the web was created, at the current time almost no bookseller and very few publishers use the hyphenated form. The hyphens do not add any "meaningfull" information to the number which is not already present, and if they are misplaced, the check number will not reveal the error, and the hyphenated number will not work as an identifier. In fact in today's world any hyphenated form of the ISBN is essentially useless. --Robert.Allen (talk) 23:20, 22 April 2011 (UTC)
The standard certainly does require ISBNs to be broken up and IIRC hyphens are recommended. I just looked at four books on my desk, all were hyphened on the back. You may not know how to extract "meaningfull" information from the ISBN, but that does not mean it is not there. Mr Stephen (talk) 23:43, 22 April 2011 (UTC)
Of course you are correct, and I should have said very few booksellers or publishers use the hyphenated form on the web. I love printed books and have quite a few of them myself, but truthfully I have never found the ISBN in printed books to be very useful until one could type it into a text box and use it to search the web, when suddenly it became extremely useful. But in that case one is well advised to omit the hyphens. Since the Wikipedia is fundamentally a web resource, and the "standard" hyphenated format is not useful on the web, and in fact is detrimental, I feel we should omit the hyphens on the Wikipedia. --Robert.Allen (talk) 02:41, 23 April 2011 (UTC)
Robert, you're right that there are difficulties searching by ISBN on Wikipedia. However, your proposal doesn't solve the problem, searches will still be with and without hyphens, and for ISBN10 or ISBN13. We need the search facility to handle input of no hyphens or with hyphens/spaces or ISBN10/ISBN13 format and return all the matches regardless of input, and regardless of source formatting on wiki. Rjwilmsi 19:49, 28 April 2011 (UTC)
I don't understand your point about the hyphens. In my experience, searching with the unhyphenated form turns up all the target ISBNs (with the same number of digits) regardless of whether they are hyphenated or not, whereas searching with the hyphenated form of the ISBN fails to turn up even the matching hyphenated targets, at least this was true on the Wikipedia. [Update: I think this may be incorrect. I tried this again, and it doesn't work like I remembered it.] On publisher web sites that use the hyphenated ISBN, a search string using the unhyphenated ISBN finds all pages with the hyphenated ISBN, whereas on publisher web sites that use the unhyphenated ISBN, using the hyphenated ISBN as the search string does not work. So the unhyphenated search string seemed to always work, whereas the hyphenated one only works on those web sites that have modified their search engine to deal with it. These are unsurprisingly very limited in number. Isn't it because of this that the special "Book sources" page uses the unhyphenated form? My primary concern is that users who may want to use the ISBN to search using other web search engines on other web sites (i.e., other than the necessarily limited number of web sites provided on the "Book sources" page), must either manually remove the hyphens before doing a search, or first navigate to the Book sources page and copy the unhyphenated number from there before performing their search. The problem is that many users may not realize that they need to remove the hyphens before searching either the Wikipedia or other websites for pages that include the ISBN. --Robert.Allen (talk) 20:22, 28 April 2011 (UTC)

Current guidelines for ISBNs badly hyphenated at source?

What are the current guidelines for what to do if a book is printed with the wrong ISBN hyphenation? I corrected several instances of a badly-hyphenated ISBN example diff, and an editor contacted me to say that the original (wrong) format is printed on the book.

I thought there was consensus that we corrected it (I have a memory of commenting on it myself, or maybe I just intended to and never got round to it) but I can't find the discussion. And, yes, this problem would go away if we didn't hyphenate at all. Mr Stephen (talk) 17:51, 25 April 2011 (UTC)

Surely, a typo in a book doesn't overturn the usage of the correct number as from publisher. I know we are about VERIF and not TRUTH, but surely an incorrect unclickable ISBN that doesn't produce any search results is not our goal? —  HELLKNOWZ  ▎TALK 11:23, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
Yes we have even had books with the wrong number printed on them. Rich Farmbrough, 00:28, 11 July 2011 (UTC).

User choice in ISBN hypenation display

There are clearly arguments for and against hypenation in ISBNs, both for recording and displaying it. Is it possible for ISBNs, however entered, to be auto-formatted to a user's preference on display. My preference would be with hypenation removed, a trivial parsing task, but I could see others would want hypenation added, a more complicated algorithm. A consistent display format would help 3rd party systems, and my poor cut and paste, to harvest the information cleanly. Vicarage (talk) 09:52, 29 May 2011 (UTC)

For that, all citations would need the hyphened version filled in; the software cannot automatically find out the hyphened version without contacting external sites, which is a very inefficient, slow, and unlikely to be implemented, even if the results are cached. —  HELLKNOWZ  ▎TALK 11:20, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
Well, I've written the hyphenation logic for books in English in < 50 lines of code. Though you point does stand for full support of all languages. Rjwilmsi 20:34, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
To enhance the utility of the ISBNs, I still favor removing all hyphens and converting ISBN-10s to ISBN-13s. --Robert.Allen (talk) 20:54, 29 May 2011 (UTC)
I do not favour removing hyphens, as the hyphens provide meaningful information. I also do not see why conversion should be done, as it may introduce error. -- Evertype· 08:06, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
The hyphens do not add meaningful information, as Special:Book sources clearly states: "Spaces and dashes in the ISBN number do not matter." The hyphens are unnecessary, a nuisance to add, and adding them is a total distraction. --Robert.Allen (talk) 06:07, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
This difference in opinion is why isbns should be stored in one format and displayed to user preferences, and the search modified to make hypenated and non-hypenated isbns equivalent. If the hypenation algorithm is hard, then store them with it, but allow a user to see and search without them. Vicarage (talk) 07:36, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
This is not really a difference of opinion, but a misunderstanding of the facts. If the hyphens added meaningful information, then if they were removed, the information would be lost. It is not lost, therefore they do not add any information. The only argument I can see for adding them is that they make it easier to memorize the number (like a phone number, for instance). However, I would suggest that if anyone is memorizing these numbers, they are wasting brain energy. These numbers are mainly useful (via mouse clicks, finger taps, or copy-paste) for searching all kinds of databases and websites. The unhyphenated number works in every case. The hyphenated number only works in rare instances. And if the hyphens (or spaces) are added incorrectly, the number will not even work in these rare cases, whereas the unhyphenated number will. We should totally forget the hyphens, and ban them from the Wikipedia. We should have bots that convert every ISBN to an ISBN-13 without hyphens. Then it would be no problem searching Wikipedia pages for articles that cite a particular ISBN. This would be an easy solution to the problem. No search engine would need to be modified. It's not enough to modify the Wikipedia search engine. Other web search engines are used all the time to search Wikipedia. The simplest way we can make Wikipedia ISBNs accessible to all search engines is to ban these worse-than-useless, deleterious hyphens. --Robert.Allen (talk) 08:08, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
You are repeating yourself. As I wrote above; you may not know how to extract "meaningfull" information from the ISBN, but that does not mean it is not there. Mr Stephen (talk) 20:00, 14 February 2012 (UTC)
I think you mean to say "information from the ISBN with the hyphens." No one has yet explained what meaningful information is present in the hyphenated form, that cannot just as easily be discovered using the number without the hyphens. I would agree with your statement, if the number without the hyphens was no longer useful for discovering the same information. In any case, here is an example of a site which has a solution for making the ISBN the target of searches using ISBNs with or without hyphens ( They include both forms as targets on their web pages, e.g., "ISBN 0393024474 (0-393-02447-4)". This might be a compromise solution. We could consider doing it the other way round to make the editors who like hyphens happy, e.g., "ISBN 0-393-02447-4 (0393024474)". [Update: Or perhaps there is even a way to hide the unhyphenated form on the page with it still being a target of search engines. If this were part of the Wikisoftware, it might not even have to show up in the edit window or be done by bots.]--Robert.Allen (talk) 23:02, 14 February 2012 (UTC)

Inline template for ISBN-related errors?

When I'm using a tool that identifies ISBN-related errors, I would like to mark them with some inline template so that a more knowledgable editor can fix them. Is there an inline template for marking these, similar to {{ISBN missing}}? Thanks! GoingBatty (talk) 17:22, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

{{Please check ISBN}} looks promising, although it seems that it doesn't add any note on the rendered page. GoingBatty (talk) 17:27, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Changing ISBN-10 to ISBN-13

This edit [20] shows a user changing all the ISBN-10 references to ISBN-13 references. Is this Wikipedia policy? Older books may not have ISBN-13 on them at all. -- Evertype· 08:04, 7 October 2011 (UTC)

WP:ISBN is an info page, not a policy, I'm not even sure it has a guideline status. In any case, there isn't any consensus either way. See the discussions above. It's best to stick to WP:CITEVAR for now. —  HELLKNOWZ  ▎TALK 08:58, 7 October 2011 (UTC)
Then it seems inappropriate for that user to have changed existing ISBN references. -- Evertype· 11:10, 7 October 2011 (UTC)