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How To Get A Barcode On Your Product or Publication
Home > Barcode Basics > Retail Barcode FAQ

Do I need a barcode?

Although it is not law that you have a barcode on your retail product or publication, it is often required by re-sellers and distributors.  They use the barcode to efficiently keep active inventories and sales records.

What kind of barcode should I get?

For retail products, the standard symbology in the U.S.A. is UPC-A, or the Universal Product Code.   Internationally, the standard symbology is EAN-13 (European Article Numbering international retail product code).

For marking shipping cartons of retail products for distribution, the most common symbol is the UPC Shipping Container Symbol (ITF-14). 

For marking shipping containers of all types, the most commonly-used barcode is UCC/EAN-128.  Different industries often have specific requirements for barcode labeling, so be sure to get details from your customers when they ask you to start marking packages or items with barcodes.

For books, the international standard is the Bookland EAN symbology (ISBN barcode).

For periodicals, the international standard symbology is ISSN (International Standard Serial Numbering ).  In addition to the ISSN code, SISAC (International Standard Serial Numbering) codes are often found on serial publications.

Where do I get the data (the number) for the barcode?

For a UPC-A or an EAN-13 manufacturer number, contact
GS1 (formerly the UNIFORM CODE COUNCIL)
Princeton Pike Corporate Center
1009 Lenox Drive
Suite 202
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648
Telephone: 609-620-0200
Telefax: 609-620-1200
Main website:  www.gs1.org
Need a barcode page:  www.gs1.org/barcodes/need_a_bar_code 
To find a local office worldwide:  www.gs1.org/contact

Before you contact GS1, estimate how many different numbers you will need for your products.  Be sure to get enough numbers, but remember that the registration fee goes up for more numbers.  Every variation of every product will require a separate number.  For example, if Product ABC is available in three sizes (small, medium, and large) and in three different colors (red, blue, green), you will need nine (9) separate numbers... one for each size/color combination.  GS1 will assign you a manufacturer ID number that you will use as the leading digits in your barcode.  You will use the remaining digits to assign a unique number to each of your products.

For an ISBN number in the U.S.A., contact
BOWKER/MARTINDALE-HUBBELL
121 Chanion Road
New Providence, NJ 07974
Telephone: (908) 665 - 6770
toll free:     (877) 310 - 7333
Telefax:     (908) 665 - 3502
www.isbn.org

For an ISSN number in the U.S.A., contact the
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
National Serials Data Program
Washington, D.C. 20540-4160
Telephone:     (202) 707-6452
Telefax:          (202) 707-6333
Email: issn@loc.gov
www.loc.gov/issn/

For an ISSN number outside the U.S.A., contact
ISSN INTERNATIONAL CENTRE
20 rue Bachaumont, 75002 Paris, FRANCE
Telephone:     +33 1 44 88 22 20
Telefax :          +33 1 40 26 32 43
E-mail: issnic@issn.org
www.issn.org

How do I print barcodes on my product or publication?

If you will be printing the barcode as part of your product package or label, you will need artwork that you can paste into the layout.  If you will be using a lot of barcodes, you may want to invest in software.  Search for barcode artwork software, also have a look at BarCode Pro, a very good professional program (www.hallogram.com/barcodes/bcpro) .  If you need just a few barcodes, try an online service like www.createbarcodes.com.

If you want to print barcode labels and stick them onto your product or packages, look for barcode label printing software.  We especially like Bar Tender For Windows (www.seagullscientific.com).  You can print your labels on a regular laser printer (inkjet labels tend to run if the labels get wet).  If you will be printing a lot of labels in a serious production environment, take a look at thermal label printers.  We have had good success with Zebra printers (www.zebra.com).


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