How to Obtain a Magazine Barcode

If you plan to sell your magazine, then you must have a Universal Product Code. The UPC is better known as a barcode and is mandatory in order for retail outlets to sell your magazine. Most national magazine distributors can supply you with both, but if you are handling your own distribution you will need to obtain them for yourself.


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    Be prepared for a two-step process. What most start up magazine publishers fail to realize is that obtaining a barcode is a two part process. First you will need to apply for and obtain a BIPAD number and subsequently a barcode.
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    Determine whether your magazine is to be a freely distributed one or one requiring payment. If you’re a novice to magazine publishing, initially you may be somewhat overwhelmed by the intricacies of launching a new title. Whether or not you want a freely distributed or paid magazine is one aspect of starting a magazine that is pretty easy and straightforward. There are many factors that one should consider before making such a momentous decision, (a subject voluminous enough for an article, if not two, all by itself). Be that as it may, if you’ve decided to have a paid publication (with a cover price) and will utilize the services of a paid distributor, then you have to obtain a BIPAD and a Universal Product Code (UPC) or barcode:
    • Due to the computerized nature of magazine distribution, retail outlets, supermarket chains and the like, magazine distributors cannot handle magazines that don’t possess UPC technology. The important thing to remember here is that obtaining a UPC, henceforth referred to as a barcode, is in effect a two-part process;
    • A BIPAD, in a nutshell, is a unique five-digit number that is given to a magazine for the purposes of insertion (encoding) into a barcode. It’s perhaps best to think of a BIPAD as your magazine’s social security number that will be utilized by your distributor and retail outlets that carry your publication for identification, inventory and tracking purposes. Details about BIPAD coding and barcode symbols are noted a little later on.
    • The BIPAD numbering system is overseen by BIPAD, Inc. with the administrative and issuance duties handled by Harrington Associates located in Norwalk, Connecticut. The minimum processing and administration fee for a BIPAD is $300 dollars. There is a sliding fee scale based upon the number of BIPADs that are required. Since each BIPAD issued is unique to the publication that it’s issued for, as alluded to earlier, it is only necessary to have one BIPAD per publication or individual title that will have separate distribution records maintained by distributors and/or wholesalers. If you plan to launch two or more titles under the same business name and/or corporation, then each title will require its own BIPAD number. Unlike the add on codes, that are encoded into the barcode, BIPAD numbers are never altered and do not have to be obtained for each issue of your publication. The BIPAD application is simple and straightforward and should take only ten minutes or less to fill out. Once completed, the application can be faxed, emailed or mailed to Harrington Associates. If you opt to make your payment by credit card, once Harrington Associates receives your completed application, it is possible to receive your BIPAD number the same day. Bear in mind that, due to the sheer quantity of applications that Harrington Associates receives, a more likely scenario is that it will take two to five business days in order for your application to be processed and it may even take up to a week to receive your final confirmation. Once you receive your BIPAD, you will now be able to apply for a barcode.
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    While there are several issuers of barcodes in the United States, it is highly recommended that you obtain yours from PIPS, Inc. PIPS, which stands for Product Identification and Processing Systems, is located in New York and is one of the oldest companies in the US specializing in bar coding technology. Many of their clients are magazine publishers and as such, PIPS is quite knowledgeable about barcode tolerances and the proper placement of bar codes on magazines. In addition, and probably just as important, they provide prompt and reliable service and can deliver barcodes via email in a matter of hours.
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    Before PIPS, or any other barcode provider, can issue your barcode, you will need to provide the following information:
    • Title name
    • Frequency
    • Issue
    • Cover Price
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    Make the relevant payment. Once you provide PIPS with this information, they will then be able to issue your barcode. The cost of a barcode is around $35 dollars, is usually delivered via email in an EPS (Encapsulated Post Script) file and can be applied for and received in the same day. The EPS insures the integrity of the barcode across various platforms, i.e. Mac or PC and is unchangeable once created. Now that you have your BIPAD and barcode, you’re ready to distribute your magazine. Now, wasn’t that easy?

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