I want to know whether the ISBN of two copies of the exact same book is the same or different. By exact copies, I mean to say same edition, title, publisher, country, price, author etc.

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this has nothing to do with academia
    – Ric
    Jun 10, 2016 at 15:26
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    There are a few places that you could get the answer: isbn.org/faqs_general_questions and isbn-international.org/content/what-isbn. I found it by just searching for "what is isbn". Jun 10, 2016 at 15:33
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    @Ric Having spent some time in the past as a librarian, I disagree on both counts. Books are often critical primary sources, and the "almost-but-not-quite-unique" nature of ISBNs can pose some subtle problems for scholars.
    – jakebeal
    Jun 10, 2016 at 15:57

1 Answer 1


As noted in the comments, the purpose of an ISBN is to uniquely identify a set of books, all of which contain precisely the same content. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that two books with precisely the same ISBN will have precisely the same content.

It is worth noting, however, that the reverse does not apply. Two books may have precisely the same content but be issued different ISBNs because they come from different printings. Likewise, printing errors, etc., can in rare cases render two books different despite having the same ISBN. For nearly all cases, however, the one-to-one relationship holds.

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    Thanks @jakebeal for you answer.You are so helpful unlike some "Wise and Learned Men" out there. Jun 10, 2016 at 15:50
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    Note that paperback and hard cover bindings of a book will have different ISBNs.
    – RoboKaren
    Jun 10, 2016 at 17:43
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    You may also get different ISBNs for otherwise identical books aimed for different markets (eg another country). "Almost-but-not-quite" is certainly a good way to describe it! Jun 10, 2016 at 19:04

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