Judging a Book by its Barcode by Lisa Gettling




Editor’s note:  Lisa returns for a second guest post.  Last time she used her industry experience to help explain planograms and how that knowledge can help us source.  This time she shares a quick tip to judge the value of the book based on a little-understood EAN5 code. 


Have you ever noticed on the back of some books next to the main barcode is a small barcode with a 5 digit number above it?


What can we learn from this, besides the fact with some scanners you have to cover the “mini me” barcode with your thumb to scan the larger barcode? We can learn a few key details without even having to open the book.

This smaller barcode on the back of books (highlighted in red in the picture), is actually called an “EAN 5.” I am sure you are saying to yourself, well that is nice but what is it? The EAN 5, with its 5 numbers can tell you what market the book was published for and the suggested retail price.

Starting with the first digit, in this example a “5,” I can tell you this book was published with the intention of being sold in the United States. I know this because the first number refers to the currency the price is set in.

First Number – Currency/Country

0.  Pound (Great Britain)

  1. Pound (Great Britain)
  2. No currency assigned
  3. Dollar (Australia)
  4. Dollar (New Zealand)
  5. Dollar (United States)
  6. Dollar (Canada)

If you notice, all the countries that have EAN 5 codes are English speaking countries.

So the first number denotes the currency, but what about the last 4 numbers? This is the price. In the example picture the EAN 5 is 51295, which means the suggested retail for this book is $12.95 in US Dollars. If the EAN 5 was 34995, it would be $49.95 in Australian Dollars.

There are a few variations to learn. If the last 4 digits are “9999,” the suggested retail value of the book is OVER 100 pounds/dollars. An EAN 5, of “90000” means at the time the book was published a suggested retail price was not set.

Colleges also have their own set of EAN 5 numbers, and claim the numbers 99990-99999. A textbook with the EAN 5 of 99990, is a used book, being sold as used. An EAN 5 of 99991 is a COPY of a book and not the original.

I admit this information is not a life changer, but it can come in handy if you are in a location where you can’t get cell service or at a massive book sale and just cannot physically scan all the books. If you find an EAN 5 of “58999” you know right away this was made for the American market with a retail value of $89.99. You would hope this book held some kind of resale value. You might also find the other end of the spectrum, an EAN 5 of “50999” which again tells you published for the American market with a suggested retail value of $9.99. This may not have a strong resale value.

This is just a little something to tuck away if you ever need it.

NOTE: EAN 5’s used in products besides books can denote either a price or weight of a product.


-Lisa Gettling

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked


{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}