Retail barcodes – UPC, EAN or ISBN – which do I need?
UPC and EAN Barcodes for normal retail goods:
The original retail barcode – the UPC – was invented back in 1973 by George Laurer, and contains 12 digits. Known as the Universal or Uniform Product Code, it is the system still used today in the United States and Canada. When the barcoding system was extended to the rest of the world, the EAN – European Article Number, now also known as the International Article Number – was created by adding an additional digit. This 13-digit barcode is the most commonly used format for merchandise globally, and is the system used here in South Africa. If you are selling anything from a music CD or DVD, to baked goods, clothing items, electronics, detergents, stationery or cosmetic products – this will be the barcode you will need. Each variation of your product will require a unique EAN barcode – this means every different size, flavour, or colour in which you produce your item.If this sounds right for your needs, you can buy barcodes for normal retail merchandise through us.
ISBN and ISSN barcodes for books, magazines and other publications:
Once-off publications like a novel, textbook, biography or non-fiction publication need to carry the International Standard Book Number format of barcode – also known as the Bookland EAN-13 barcode. There exist both 10-digit and 13-digit ISBN’s. In South Africa the global 13-digit standard which was adopted in 2007 is used. As you can see below, the book’s barcode is actually made up of the 13-digit ISBN itself, which already contains a check digit, as follows:
You will therefore have to apply for the ISBN number before you can have its corresponding barcode designed. Luckily SA Barcodes is a registered self-publisher and can do both for you within hours, for exactly the same rate as a normal retail barcode! You will need to supply the title, and publisher’s or (self-publisher’s) contact information, but you do not need to submit any drafts or mock-up pages. Find out more about our ISBN offer here. Remember that you will need a separate ISBN and barcode for the electronic version of your publication if you have one.The National Library of South Africa will also require you to submit free copies of your publication to them for permanent assignment on the global ISBN database, which can give your book a greater marketing advantage if you are self-publishing and intend to approach potential distributors.
Newspapers and Magazines:
An ongoing publication, such as a magazine, newspaper, periodical, or other serialised print requires a more specialised barcode, which is made up of both the applicable ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) as well as an add-on barcode which indicates the issue number:
The ISSN number itself will never change unless the title of the publication itself is altered. Many retailers will allow you to stock their shops without a new issue number barcode on each next edition, although some of the larger bookstores will, so make sure to check with them. SA Barcodes offers ISSN sourcing and barcode design as well. In order to apply for your ISSN you will need to have a mock-up of the cover or title page, and the credits or editorial page (where the contributors, journalists, editors, and contact details of the publication appear.) these do not have to be the final version and can be supplied in Jpeg or pdf format – just make sure they aren’t the high-resolution versions as the ISSN application process is done online and via email.
Do I need a barcode for my publication at all?
If your publication is only for private distribution and you intend to make no more than 50 copies of the book (or other publication) – then you are not by law required to have an ISBN or ISSN barcode appear. However the vast majority of booksellers and newsagents will require you to have one for normal retail purposes. In the case of an e-book, the decision lies with the online portal which you have chosen to market your work on. Some online stores don’t require an ISBN if you are publishing on Kindle for example, whereas Apple’s iBookstore does.
We hope that we’ve covered your questions here – if not feel free to contact us for more information.