Which barcode do I need?

Barcodes can be confusing at first. Hence we have put together this table to help you determine which type of barcode you need.

Product Which barcode do I need?
Alcohol EAN or UPC
Art books (includes illustrated books with a title page and/or text or captions) ISBN
Asset tracking Code 39 or code 128
Artwork EAN or UPC
Atlases ISBN
Audiobooks ISBN
Board games, jigsaws EAN or UPC
Book – published (includes Braille, hardback, paperback, e-book) ISBN
Book – non-published (includes colouring book, crossword, sudoku) EAN or UPC
Brochures and pamphlets ISBN
Calendars EAN or UPC
Compact discs (CDs) EAN or UPC

ISBN if the CD is prose or educational

Clothing & Footwear EAN or UPC
Comic books ISBN
Cosmetics EAN or UPC
Coupons EAN or UPC – check with retailer you wish coupon to be used in

ISBN if they are educational

Electronics EAN or UPC
Electronic newsletters / e-zines ISSN
Flash cards EAN or UPC
Food EAN or UPC
Garden products EAN or UPC
Graphic novels ISBN
Greeting cards EAN or UPC
Historical documents ISBN
Homewares EAN or UPC
Journals and diaries Non-published use EAN or UPC

Historical or published diaries use ISBN

Library systems Code 39 or code 128 barcodes
Magazines ISSN
Medicines EAN or UPC
Music (tracks or albums, not sheet music) EAN or UPC
Pamphlets ISBN barcode
Pictures and photographs EAN or UPC
Postcards EAN or UPC
Posters and art prints EAN or UPC
Serials (magazines, periodicals, etc.) ISSN barcode
Serials (magazines, periodicals, etc.) if being sold as a one-off book ISBN barcode
Sheet music ISMN barcode
Software EAN or UPC
Stationery items EAN or UPC 
Supplements & Vitamins EAN or UPC
Tools EAN or UPC
Toys, including stuffed animals EAN or UPC


Example EAN barcode example carton code


EAN-13 Barcodes / International Article Number

International Article Numbers, formerly EAN (European Article Numbers) comprise 13-digits. They are used worldwide on all retail products excluding books and magazines. They are the most widely used barcodes globally with the exception of in the USA and Canada where UPC-A (Universal Product Codes) barcodes are more common. Each EAN-13 is product-specific and encoded into a barcode image. This means that when the barcode is scanned into store systems, price and inventory data related to your product is recorded. A different EAN-13 number, therefore, is required for each unique product.

UPC-A Barcodes

12-digit UPC Barcodes are used predominantly in the USA and Canada on all retail products, with the exception of books and magazines.

ITF-14 Carton & Pallet Barcodes

ITF-14 Carton Codes are created from EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes. They are only used in warehouses on cartons containing a specific quantity of the item that the product barcode represents. They should not be used for any products that are for sale individually at a retail level.

ISBN Book Barcodes

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) are barcodes for both hard copy and e-books. ISBNs usually start with 978 and are distributed by ISBN agencies in each country (see HK ISBN Agency). They can also be obtained through independent publishing agencies such as bookisbn.org.uk, used for self-publishing authors. Note: Crossword, puzzle and colouring books are not published books so do not use ISBN barcodes. They use standard retail barcodes (EAN or UPC).

ISSN Magazine Barcodes

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique 8-digit number used to identify periodical publications such as magazines and journals.
Only apply for an ISSN if your publications meet the following criteria:
• They are serials (journals, newspapers, magazines, monographic series etc.)
• They are ongoing integrating resources (websites, databases etc.)

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