How to Find an ISBN and Use it to Sell Books Online for Profit


Okay, you’re all set to start making some extra money selling books online. You’ve read my blog, know all about, and how much money you can earn selling books through buyback companies.

You are ready to find the best places to sell books online and start making extra money!

Then you go to and see the following words in their search engine:

“Search an ISBN”

Wait. What the heck is an ISBN?

What is an ISBN?

An ISBN can be your best friend or your worst enemy when it comes to selling books online – depending on how much you know about it and how easily you can find it.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is a numerical code often found above a book’s barcode or in the publication information page. The code is like the book’s social security number and identifies the book’s publisher, its edition (i.e. hardcover, paperback, 13th edition of a textbook etc.), and where it was published.

Every book (as well as different editions of the same book – especially textbooks) has a different ISBN. Almost all books published after 1970 have an ISBN.

ISBNs are all 13 digits or 10 digits long.

13-digit ISBNs begin with the numbers 978.

10-digit ISBNs in the U.S. all begin with a 0 or 1. (If the book was published in a different country, the 10-digit ISBN might begin with a different number).

So what does this mean to you?

It means if you find out how much money you can sell your book for, you need to locate the ISBN of your book and enter it in Bookscouter can then look up the book and tell you how much different buyback companies will pay for that book.

Sounds easy, right?

Well… not always.

Problems with Finding the ISBN of a Book

Most of the time, finding and using the ISBN is as easy as turning to the back cover of the book and scanning the barcode with your barcode scanner. The ISBN will then appear in the search bar and bring up all the buyback company bids.

The problem is, sometimes the barcode on the back of a book doesn’t contain the ISBN.

Instead, the barcode contains what’s known as the Universal Product Code (UPC) which is a different set of numbers that also identifies the book.

Unfortunately the UPC makes no sense to and you won’t get any information on the book if you scan that code.

(You can tell if a barcode contains an ISBN or UPC by glancing at the numbers below the barcode. If the numbers begin with 978 it’s an ISBN. Otherwise it’s often a UPC).

Other times, even if the barcode contains the ISBN, it’s covered with a sticker from the store it’s being sold in. These stickers have their own barcodes – so your scanner reads that barcode instead of the ISBN and brings up no information.

In these situations, you need to peel off enough of the sticker (making sure not to damage its barcode) so you can scan the book’s actual ISBN barcode.

Sometimes the sticker is stuck too hard for you to scan the book’s barcode.

It’s frustrating. Believe me, I know.

There have been times I found a book I was sure would fetch a great price – and then wasted a lot of precious time trying to find and scan the ISBN.

A lot of people give up early in the game because of this – and I can’t entirely blame them. While selling books online is a fun way of making extra money, problems like this can lead to a lot of headaches if you don’t develop a strategy to deal with them.

So how do I get around these problems?

Like this:

Top Three Places to Find the ISBN Barcode

While the back cover of a book is the most common place to find the ISBN barcode, it is not the only place where one can be located.

Thus, your first strategy when you can’t scan the back cover is to see if the ISBN barcode is somewhere else in the book.

If the book is a paperback, flip to the inside front cover. A lot of paperback books have a second ISBN barcode inside the front cover that can be easily scanned.

If the book is a hardcover with a dust jacket, look at the inside edges of the dust jacket, where the ISBN barcode can also be located and scanned easily.

Other Places to Find the ISBN

Sometimes, a book doesn’t contain a barcode (or has one that’s covered by a sticker) but does have an ISBN you can locate.

In these situations, you need to enter the ISBN manually into your phone, tablet, or laptop since there’s no barcode to scan with your barcode scanner.

This can be annoying, but if you find a book you think can sell for a lot online, it’s still worth it to spend the extra time typing in the ISBN – especially since a lot of other book dealers may have passed it over, increasing the chances of it being worth something.

First, look at the back cover again. Even if the book doesn’t have a barcode, it might still have the ISBN printed on the back or on a sticker.

If that doesn’t work, flip to the publication information page (it’s usually one of the first five pages of the book) and find the ISBN there.

Be careful – sometimes the publication information page lists multiple ISBNs for the hardcover and paperback versions of the book, so you need to enter the ISBN for the version of the book you’re looking up.

Speeding Up Your Search With a Scanner

Despite these problems, most of the time, finding the ISBN is still just a matter of finding the barcode on the back cover of a book and entering it into

However, you can probably tell by now that entering a 10-digit or 13-digit code manually every time you want to look up a book can be time consuming and lead to a lot of headaches.

That’s why I strongly suggest anyone who wants to sell books online for extra money invest in a barcode scanner before they start selling books online to buyback companies or on Amazon.

These scanners will save you a lot of stress and you’ll find they pay for themselves many times over thanks to all the additional books you can find in less time.

You can read my reviews of some of these scanners at How to Make More Money Selling Books Online with the Bluetoorth Cordless Hand Scanner.