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Which ISBN number should I use in my literature list?

I have for example used a book about Design Patterns for my thesis. But I found that books have two ISBN numbers. Which is prefered to use?

This is an example from a book I used as reference:

Print ISBN:978-0-596-00712-6 | ISBN 10:0-596-00712-4
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ISBN numbers for a specific book vary between countries/regions and is thus not altogether very useful in international publications. When referencing a book, it is not customary to list ISBN-numbers, partly for the reason just stated. Instead you should be able to find a doi (digital object identifier) number, at least if the book is relatively new. There is otherwise no general rules about including such numbers in reference lists. With books the fields that must (or at least should be included are author(s)/editor(s), year of publication, title, publisher and place for the publisher (City).

  • Note that you can encode an ISBN into a DOI, so this could be a concern even for DOIs. – Federico Poloni Mar 18 '14 at 13:09
  • ISBN numbers for a specific book vary between countries/regions - Does this matter? As long as an ISBN uniquely identifies the exact book you used, it helps. Or are you saying that this is not the case across regions, i.e. two different books might have the same ISBN? – Mangara Mar 19 '14 at 12:22
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Many books have two ISBN numbers for each edition, and that's what's happening in the case you've cited. There are now two formats of ISBN, one with 13 digits and one with 10 digits. ISBN 10 is the older format. Since 2007, books have had both. The last digit in each case is the check(sum) digit, calculated from a hash of the previous digits.

The ISBN 13 is created from:

  • the digits 978
  • the first 9 digits of the ISBN 10 code
  • the recalculated check digit

That's what's going on in your case, and you can cite either the ISBN-13 or the ISBN-10.

It's also the case that different editions of a book have different ISBNs. That's not what's going on in your case. But when that is the case, you use the ISBN of the exact edition you've been using: that way, the content and page numbers should tally up, for anyone who follows up your ISBN and page number citation to see the original in context.

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