How To Get A Free Book Barcode

By | September 1, 2015

Create your own book barcode

When I first started publishing, I used CreateSpace for the printed versions. It was simple. Upload a file and it gets published on Amazon. But when I wanted the printed versions of my clients’ books to be available elsewhere and for sale in bookstores, CreateSpace didn’t cut it.

I had always purchased ISBNs in bulk for my company, Route 11 Publications, but I always left the empty space on the back cover of printed books for CreateSpace to fill in the barcode. Guess what? I learned that if I wanted to distribute books in bookstores, I needed my own book barcode. And after some research, I learned that barcodes have specifications.

So where do you get a free book barcode? And what does a barcode include?

First, be warned. Some of the free book barcode generators that you find online do not meet all of the book industry specifications.

What is a book barcode and why do I need one?

We’ll keep it simple. A book barcode is the image on the back of book covers with all of the vertical lines and some cryptic numbers above and below. That’s right. A book barcode is simply an image that you add to the back cover of your printed book.

A book barcode allows bookstores–online and offline–to scan your book’s ISBN and retail price electronically for purchasing and inventory purposes. It’s similar to the UPC code you find on products everywhere. When you purchase that new shirt in the store or buy a nice rib-eye steak, the cashier scans the barcode and the price appears on the register and your sales ticket. It also allows the store to record what has been sold so they can delete it from inventory.

In fact, a book barcode is similar to the UPC code you find on products everywhere. When you purchase that new shirt in the store or buy a nice rib-eye steak, the cashier scans the barcode and the price appears on the register and your sales ticket. It also allows the store to record what has been sold so they can delete it from inventory.

A book barcode is basically a special UPC code designed for books. It includes the ISBN of the printed version of your book. But it also needs a price add-on. And that’s where most of the free book barcode generators fail. The price add-on is an additional, smaller barcode that appears to the right of the ISBN book barcode. Take a look at the back covers of some books the next time you are in a bookstore and become familiar with ISBN barcodes and price add-on barcodes.

Why doesn’t CreateSpace include a price add-on barcode?

CreateSpace is Amazon’s Print on Demand subsidiary for printing and selling books on Amazon. They only need your ISBN. While you set the retail price when you upload a book to CreateSpace, Amazon can discount the book, and they often do.

Take a look at some printed books for sale on Amazon. You’ll see the price customers pay on the search page, but if you click to that book’s Amazon page, you’ll also see a marked-out retail price. The retail price was set by the publisher, but Amazon discounted the book.

What are the requirements for a barcode?

The answer to that question depends on where you intend to sell your book. The requirements I’m going to talk about here are standard book industry requirements. If you want to sell your book in online and offline retail bookstores, most will require that you follow these standards. Besides, if you want to publish like a pro, you’ll want your barcode to meet the standard specifications.

free book barcodeA book barcode with price add-on has a standard size of 1-inch height by 2 and 1/3 inches in width. While the Book Industry Study Group, BISG, says that you can enlarge or reduce the size by as much as 20 percent, Ingram, the largest book distributor in the world, says not to change the size of the barcode in their specifications listed for Ingram Spark. Note that the size specification applies from the bottom of the numbers below the barcode to the top of the barcode lines. The reader-friendly ISBN that appears above the bar code is not included in this size specification.

The barcode specifications also require that a ‘quiet space’ exist to the right of the barcode. It’s only 3/32 inches, but it’s important because it allows the scanners to read the code without interference. On some book barcodes you’ll see a greater than symbol ‘>’ after the ISBN. This is a reminder to respect the quiet space.

Do I need an add-on price bar code?

The ISBN barcode does not include pricing information. You’ll need to add another barcode to the right of the ISBN barcode in order for pricing information to be included when the book is scanned electronically. This is called the add-on price barcode.


There is some debate regarding whether or not the add-on price barcode is necessary. In today’s market, some bookstores want to set their own prices for books. You’ll often see a sticker price on the back of a book placed there by the bookstore. But most bookstores still want to see an add-on price barcode on the back cover, so you would be wise to add one for now.

While not required, it is also standard practice to add a reader-friendly price to the back cover. If you look at the back covers of some books, you’ll see this price can appear anywhere, but it is often directly above the barcode and includes pricing in two or more currencies. The BISG recommends that this reader-friendly price be added in an easily readable font and large enough for the customer to easily read.

Where can I get a free book barcode?

Glad you asked. You can purchase barcodes from Bowker, the same place you purchase ISBNs. But why purchase a barcode when you can get free book barcode?

There are numerous places online that sell barcodes or allow you to create a free book barcode. As I mentioned earlier, beware, because not all barcodes meet the industry standards. Most of the free ones do not include the add-on pricing.

If you would like to check out the free book barcode creator that I use, download this free PDF with a link and instructions for creating your own book barcode. And because I want to make sure you use your new barcode correctly, I’ll also send you the Book Barcode Checklist with tips for properly placing your barcode on your book’s back cover.

Click Here for your FREE Barcode Creator Link & Checklist

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