ISBN numbers and EAN numbers

What’s that barcode on the back of my used textbook really mean?

What’s that striped code on the backs of textbooks? That’s the “barcode.” A scanner converts that barcode into either a 10 digit ISBN number, or a 13 digit EAN number. Nowadays, most textbooks use the 13-digit EAN number which usually begin with the number “978.” In theory, when all the 10-digit ISBN numbers are used up and converted to their 13 digit EAN counterparts, EAN numbers will then begin with the digits “979.”

If you look on the outside back cover of your used book, sometimes you’ll see different stickers placed over the book’s original barcode. You may find the “978” part of the EAN number covered with a sticker using a different prefix. These non-978 prefixes are usually ways that people in the textbook business categorize their books (e.g. new vs used). Other times, the sticker will have different data, or alterations to the book’s original ISBN number. These alterations may have been useful for the previous textbook owner, but for the purposes of textbook sales to BooksIntoCash.Com, it is important to remove the sticker ensure you are using the book’s original EAN (or ISBN) for pricing purposes.

You may notice we use the words “ISBN” and “EAN” interchangeably. That’s because BooksIntoCash.Com automatically knows which to use for pricing purposes. If you only input 10-digit ISBN numbers, then only 10-digit ISBN numbers will be displayed for you on our price quote chart. However, if you input any 13-digit EAN numbers at all, then BooksIntoCash.Com will display BOTH the ISBN and the EAN numbers for your convenience. Basically, since many textbooks have both the 10-digit and 13-digit number listed, you get to choose whichever is most convenient to type (hint: you can type a 10-digit ISBN number 23% faster than typing a 13-digit EAN number).

Sometimes there is a sticker covering the book’s original ISBN number. It’s important to note that even if it looks like it would be too much trouble to peel back that sticker to make sure you’re using the book’s real ISBN number, you need to do it anyway if you are going to use BooksIntoCash.Com to create a sell order. Otherwise you’re taking the risk that the book will be re-quoted upon arrival if we find the textbook’s “actual” ISBN number is different than the one on the sticker you used. If for some reason, the book is missing the barcode number, or has an ISBN or EAN number that doesn’t show up on our website, and your book is brand new (e.g published this year), then please contact us so that we can manually price that book for you. We really enjoy purchasing the textbooks that you wish to sell, even if we have to manually look them up for you.


  • Neil says:

    It is great to finally see a good explanation of ISBN numbers, I didn’t realize that the EAN and ISBN could convert to each other.

  • Seville W. says:

    Will both numbers work on your website? If my used textbooks have a sticker over the ISBN number, do I peel that off?

  • 83Freder says:

    I notice that EANs can be used interchangeably when I sell textbooks on your pricing page. Typing the 10 digit number (ISBN) is easier when I have a whole bunch of books to price. I have a scanner and I notice when I scan the barcode on the backs of my used books, the 13 digit EAN appears, and then I scan the whole stack of books into your website. Very nice feature. Thank you!!

  • Anna H. and Victor B. says:

    I learned a lot about EAN numbers here. I’m glad you explained everything so well and clearly. I have some old textbooks I want to recycle and a few of them have no ISBN numbers anywhere, even on the inside of the book. I hope you would know what to do to recycle those books.

  • Ian says:

    Well done! (All my books have stickers on them by the way. I guess I’ll have to peel those stickers off).

  • Paul19340 says:

    Nice post.

  • Yasmin says:

    Can’t you provide a little more details on comparing the ISBN and EAN numbers? I am still confused because on the back of my college textbook, there are four numbers, two of them are on the sticker, and the other two are on the book, and none of them match. All 4 of the ISBN numbers are different (I mean ISBN and EAN) and I need to know which to use to get to your price quote packing slip page on your Booksintocash.Com website. Would you please provide some more instructions on those? On one of my used textbooks, the cover was torn off and there was no ISBN number, and then I went to look on the inside of the book, and I couldn’t use that ISBN number because the page had water damage and was all wrinkled and stuck together. Should I go ahead and send that book?

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