Frequently Asked Questions about and the Online ISBN Bar Code Generator


  1. I love this program, how can I thank you?
    Drop me a line and let me know that it's working for you. Beyond that: This is free software. Contributions are strictly voluntary.
  2. Is there someone who can help me?
    What is an ISBN,
    what does "ISBN" stand for,
    do I really need one,
    what do I do with it,
    does it cost money,
    what do the numbers mean,
    I need to find all ISBN numbers that have been published (in the world) to this date,
    what is the diffence between a ISBN barcode and a UPC,
    what about EAN,
    what are the digits below the bars in a UPC barcode made up of,
    what's a check digit,
    if you ask it to convert a ten-digit ISBN to a 13-digit ISBN, the last digit is changed, which obviously isn't right,
    The image included "51600" over the right-hand part of the barcode, but there was no "$16.00" above it,
    where do I put it on the cover,
    what if I don't know the book's price yet,
    all I get is a black screen which disappears immediately,
    I can't print the bar code out with good enough resolution to scan it,
    I'm totally confused by all the abbreviations used in your web.
    The only responsible thing to do is to take the program offline until you upgrade it,
    Please respond as soon as possible, I need a bar code by tomorrow!
    You probably shouldn't be making your own bar code. Barcoding mistakes can be expensive. See BISG's page "For the New Publisher" for information on barcoding books. If you need a bar code vendor, please patronize one from our list of sponsors. If you just want general information on ISBN's, start reading at .
  3. Can you provide me with an ISBN?
    No. This site is concerned only with barcodes. You have to get the actual number (ISBN) somewhere else.
  4. OK, where do I get one?
    In the USA, from Bowker. See
  5. Bowker wants to charge me a lot of money for a block of ISBN's, and someone's offering to "sell" me a single ISBN. Should I go for it?
    Probably not. They bought a block of numbers from Bowker (if in US) and are "reselling" individual numbers at a profit. Problem is, as far as I know, Bowker has no mechanism for "transferring" numbers from one publisher to another. So the reseller you buy the ISBN from will remain publisher of record, not you, and you'll be dependent on them for any changes you want to make in "Books in Print". Forever, until you republish under a different ISBN. Better bite the bullet and buy a block of ISBN's directly from Bowker. You get ten ISBN's, let that inspire you to publish ten books!

    More on this subject from Bowker.

  6. I lost the sheet of paper with my ISBN's and don't want to pay Bowker for a new one. Would you know of another way to assign myself a new number?
    Sorry, no. Try to get Bowker to send you the numbers again.
  7. How do I look up a book based on its ISBN number, can I get a copy of the ISBN database?
    Thanks to Alan Sargent for writing in on this one:

    "Go to where you can fill in the form, or put the ISBN in the URL as for ISBN 1-878739-76-x. You can also do ISBN searches at and other online shops. See for a script to grab these."

  8. What is is a program that generates ISBN and ISMN bar codes. is free software and comes with no warranty.
  9. But if there's no warranty, how will I know if the bar code is any good?
    You won't. If you don't have a reliable way to way to verify the bar code that you make with (or the online interface), please have a commercial bar code supplier make the bar code for you instead. You can support by patronizing one of our sponsors
  10. How do I download
    You don't have to. You can try it out using the online interface at This is free software and comes with no warranty.
  11. I used your software to generate a barcode, but cannot view it. What do I need to download to view it and print it?
    Any software capable of rendering Postscript, for example, GSview.
  12. The link to GSview doesn't work! Where do I find it?
    To find GSview, google "GSview".
  13. If I use the free generator, does my computer have to be hooked up to the printer?
    Only if you want to print something.
  14. How to open the file in Photoshop?
    Rob Addams, (, writes:
    A tip for people opening the file in photoshop.
    1. on request convert file from CMYK to RGB
    2. Then convert to gray scale
    3. Then convert to bitmap with 50% gray tolorance on.
  15. I get a file named "" and my system doesn't recognize the extension!
    Try renaming it to something like "barcode.eps" (i.e. with eps extension).
  16. What about ISMN's and ISSN's?
    ISMN support added as of version 0.92. Just input the ISMN instead of the ISBN. The program will figure out it's an ISMN when it sees the leading "M". Don't know about ISSN's - these probably are represented with UPC bar codes, which "bookland" doesn't support. Someone told me ISSN's use an EAN-13 bar code and if that's true we'll add support for that sooner or later. Probably later.
  17. I want the ISBN barcode only, without the smaller UPC-5 price code.
    Just use a blank price code and the UPC-5 bar code will be suppressed. You probably shouldn't do this unless you're going to be marketing in a country where the price code isn't used.
  18. I want a smaller barcode. Do I scale it down in my typesetting software, use the height reduction factor in the program, or both? How small can I actually make it?
    The spec calls for 80% to 200% magnification, and states that for offset printing 100% should be enough. You can scale it in your typesetting software. Some people choose to reduce the bar height only, keeping the bar widths the same. That's what the height reduction factor does. It's not formally approved by the spec but may be the better option. Bob Lounsbury at The Barcode Software Center writes more on this:

    "It's a good idea to stay within the 80% to 100% dictated by the spec, but if you are in a tight corner and MUST save some space, truncating the height of the bars is the safest route. You can do this in the barcode software (height reduction) or by laying an opaque box over the top half (or quarter or eighth or whatever) of the bars in your layout.

    "Reducing the height of the bars makes the barcode a smaller target, so the clerk may have to be a little more careful about aiming the scanner. Once the scanner has a clean line across the barcode, it cannot tell and does not care how tall the bars are.

    "If you reduce the width, however, the thinner bars and spaces require the scanner to squint a little harder. If you go below 80% reduction in the horizontal direction, there is a risk that some scanners may not be able to resolve the smaller bars, and no amount of aiming by the clerk will make it happen."

    On the subject of barcode height, Deak Jahn Gabor, a bar code supplier at writes:

    "I'd like to draw your attention to a problem in your generator script: the height of the codes is higher than the standard. There are two mistakes in the program. First, the standard height is 24.5 mm, not 25.4 mm or 1 inch. Second, this should be the height of the guard bars, not the digit bars.

    "Actually, there is one thing more but that is not that important. The digits 1, 2, 7 and 8 do not adhere to the 0.33 mm modular system, the width of the individual bars and gaps is slightly modified (eg. the digit 1 in set C is 0.69 bar, 0.63 gap, 0.69 bar). The difference is rather small, anyway."

    He may be right. I haven't been able to confirm this information - can anyone help me out here?
  19. Why doesn't the program hyphenate the ISBN automatically?
    Automatic hyphenation requires a reliable table of all the publisher ranges for every language group (yes they can vary from group to group). I don't have time to gather this information and keep it up-to-date. Better no hyphenation than unreliable hyphenation. See
  20. I need a barcode for a CD. Where I can find software to do this?
    Sorry, don't know.
  21. All worked fine except for the Adobe Type 1 OCRB font. I don't have that in my folder, or my system can't find it, and substitutes Courier. What to do?
    If you don't have OCRB, you'll have to get it from somewhere. Look here for a free OCRA, and here for a free OCRB (and thanks to Dr. David Haywood of Public Address Books for bringing this to our attention!) seems to have it too (thanks to Scott Ananian for this lead!) Mine came with a copy of "Canvas" ( Once you have it, you'll need to configure your postscript rendering program to find it. Perhaps it's named differently on your system (perhaps something like "OCR-B") in which case you could run bookland with "-f OCR-B".
  22. How to add a font to Ghostscript?
    This works for me:
    • Put the files in /usr/[local/]share/ghostscript/fonts, or some other directory in the font search path.
    • Add this line to the end of /usr/[local/]share/ghostscript/lib/Fontmap.GS:
                   /OCRB                                   (o019000m.pfb)  ;
      "o019000m.pfb" should be changed to whatever file you want OCRB to map to.
  23. What about Helvetica and Arial?
    I don't know for sure. If you try it and some distributor refuses to take your book, please let me know.
  24. The 5-digit price code has a ">" printed to the right of the digits?!
    This is often used to enforce the plain white "quiet zone" to the right of the UPC-5 bar code. As of V. 0.91 you can suppress this symbol if you don't like it. The bar code standards don't appear to require it.
  25. The bar code generator keeps generating the wrong code. It's always the last ISBN digit that comes up incorrect. It does this over and over, regardless of the ISBN number or the digit at the end. It's always creating a barcode image with the wrong digit at the end.
    If you input an ISBN-10, the ISBN-13 printed out above the bars won't necessarily have the same check digit.
  26. Your code generator says my ISBN generates a check sum error. What now?

    The ISBN is invalid. At least one digit is wrong. There's no way of knowing which.

    Look at your paperwork and verify that this really is your ISBN. If it is, better call up Bowker and let them know. See also and verify the check digit calculation by hand.

  27. The output file is licensed under GPL. Does this mean I have to include a GPL notice in my book?
    No. Because copies a portion of itself into its output file, its output files are also copyright the author and licensed under the GPL. However, relevant provisions of the GPL notwithstanding, the author licenses users to use and redistribute output files generated by this program without restriction. You don't need to put in a copyright notice for the barcode, or a GPL statement or anything like that.
  28. Will bookland be updated to handle 13-digit ISBN's? When?
    Done in version 1.0
  29. What about 13 digit ISMN's?
    I don't know! If anyone does, please let me know.
    Meanwhile, if you already have a 13-digit ISMN (starts with "979-0") just input that and edit the EPS file with Wordpad or similar to change the "ISBN" label to "ISMN".
  30. Anything else?
    Yes. Good luck with your project!

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The College Park Press
Last update: 08 Nov 2015