Unlocking the Barcode Maze: A Comprehensive Guide for Book Sellers on Amazon

Decoding Amazon’s ASIN – The Unique Product Identifier

When selling books on Amazon, understanding the intricate web of barcodes and identifiers is crucial for maximizing sales and efficiency. At the heart of this system lies the Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN), a unique code Amazon assigns to each product listed on its platform. For booksellers, it’s important to note that while we deal with books, we typically do not create new ASINs. This responsibility falls on the shoulders of publishers or their designated vendors, who establish the ASIN when initially listing the book on Amazon.

Our role as book sellers involves listing our inventory under these existing listings, rather than creating new ones. This approach is strategically sound for several reasons. Firstly, existing book listings often have established traffic, significantly increasing our inventory’s visibility and sales potential. Creating a new listing for a book with an established ASIN is unnecessary and could also reduce the likelihood of attracting customer attention due to the absence of established traffic.

Understanding EAN and UPC – Global Product Identifiers

In the global retail landscape, EAN (European Article Number) and UPC (Universal Product Code) are the backbone of product identification and tracking. These barcode standards are universally recognized for retail packaging worldwide. While the EAN is a broader system used to identify a wide range of products for retail scanning at the point of sale, it is not limited to books.

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However, as book sellers operating on Amazon, our interaction with EAN and UPC numbers is minimal. This is because we are not in the business of manufacturing or introducing new products to the market. Instead, our primary focus is on a different kind of identifier: the ISBN (International Standard Book Number), which is a specific type of EAN designed exclusively for identifying books worldwide.

Unraveling the ISBN – The Key to Book Identification

The ISBN is a critical tool in the realm of book selling, coming in two key formats: ISBN-10 and ISBN-13. While the 13-digit ISBN was introduced in January 2007 to expand the system’s capacity, the most crucial skill for book sellers is not converting between these two formats but rather accurately recognizing and working with both.

This expertise is vital for efficiently tracking, listing, and managing book inventories. Most books display their ISBN, along with its designated barcode, on the back cover, allowing sellers to scan and retrieve information about the book in hand easily. Additionally, leveraging tools such as the Bookzy Mobile book scouting app can further enhance the efficiency of book resellers by providing instant access to valuable data metrics and insights while on the go.

The Symbiotic Relationship Between ASIN and ISBN

Understanding the relationship between ASIN and ISBN is crucial for book sellers, as it significantly influences the efficiency and accuracy of listing books on Amazon. Amazon’s approach to assigning ASIN numbers for books demonstrates a harmonious alignment with ISBN-10 numbers. Given that both ASINs and ISBN-10 numbers consist of 10 characters, Amazon has devised a system where the ASIN for most books listed on its platform directly corresponds to the book’s ISBN-10 number.

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However, situations arise where a book’s ASIN does not match any ISBN-10 number. These are usually secondary listings created after the first, often implying that the original listing would potentially attract more traffic. This highlights the critical importance of choosing the correct listing to optimize a book’s visibility and sales potential.

Navigating Multiple Listings with ASIN and ASR

Encountering multiple listings for the same book is a common scenario when selling books on Amazon. Identifying the most appropriate listing is crucial. In most instances, the ASIN number acts as a dependable guide, leading sellers to the original listing. Additionally, assessing the Average Sales Rank (ASR) provides further verification, offering insights into the listing’s performance and popularity.

At this juncture, the value of specialized listing software for book sellers becomes apparent. An effective listing tool, like Bookz Pro Lister, is essential. It not only displays the ASR but also furnishes sellers with crucial information needed to select the optimal title/listing/ASIN when listing their items, making the selection process an informed and strategic decision.

The Power of SKU – Streamlining Inventory Management

For an Amazon seller, an SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) is a unique identifier assigned to each product listed for sale. This identifier is used to track inventory and manage stock levels. Unlike universal product codes (UPC, EAN or ISBN in our case), which are standardized and assigned to products globally, SKUs are specific to each retailer or seller and can be customized to fit their inventory system and tracking needs.

Utilizing SKUs allows for sophisticated inventory management, enabling you to monitor sales patterns, profitability by sourcing location, and more. Effective use of SKUs can significantly enhance your operational efficiency and financial oversight. When creating SKUs, Amazon sellers can incorporate information such as product type, category, color, size, and condition, among other attributes, to create a system that makes sense for their business.

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To further streamline inventory management, consider leveraging the Bookz Pro Stock Manager tool, a game-changing inventory tool tailored for book sellers that helps with advanced filtering and bulk actions for efficient management.

FNSKU – Amazon’s Inventory Tracker

FNSKU stands for Fulfillment Network Stock Keeping Unit, a unique identifier used by Amazon for products stored in and FBA fulfillment centers. When a seller decides to use the FBA service, each item they send to an Amazon fulfillment center is given an FNSKU. This identifier allows Amazon to track the item throughout its fulfillment process, ensuring that the correct product is sent to the customer who ordered it.

While the FNSKU is specific to the seller and the product, it’s not necessary for book sellers to know much more beyond its basic purpose and usage. This label is what we apply to our books when listing an item through FBA, but it’s not a code we need to concern ourselves with beyond that.


Mastering Amazon’s intricate system of identifiers – ASIN, ISBN, SKU, and FNSKU – is the key to unlocking your inventory’s visibility and sales potential on this vast platform. These codes are more than mere labels; they are the keys to streamlining operations and enhancing your success as a bookseller. By effectively utilizing these identifiers and embracing specialized tools like listing and inventory management software, book sellers can navigate the competitive world of online book selling with confidence and efficiency.

Remember, understanding and leveraging Amazon’s barcode maze is your path to maximizing profitability and standing out in the crowded marketplace. Stay informed, embrace innovative tools, and let these identifiers guide you towards success in the dynamic world of Amazon book selling.