What is it for, and where did it come from?
W. H. Smith, who was the largest single book retailer in Great Britain, became computerized and wanted a standard numbering system for all the books it carried. They constructed the Standard Book Numbering system (SBN), which was introduced in 1967. In 1970 the ISO, International Organization for Standardization, which consisted of several countries, adopted this standard system. It evolved into the ISBN numbering system and is now the standard in approximately 150 countries.