R.R. Bowker LLC ("Bowker") is an American limited liability company based in New Providence, New Jersey, and incorporated in Delaware. Among other things, Bowker provides bibliographic information on published works to the book trade, including publishers, booksellers, libraries, and individuals; its roots in the industry trace back to 1868. Bowker is the exclusive U.S. agent for issuing International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), a universal method of identifying books in print. Bowker is the publisher of Books in Print and other compilations of information about books and periodical titles. It provides supply chain services and analytical tools to the book publishing industry. Bowker is headquartered in New Providence, New Jersey, with additional operational offices in England and Australia. It is now owned by Cambridge Information Group.
The company was founded by Frederick Leypoldt, a German immigrant who worked as a bookseller and recognized the need for good bibliographic information to make the book business more efficient. He established the monthly Literary Bulletin, his first periodical, in 1868. In 1870 Leypoldt issued the first edition of his Annual American Catalogue, the forerunner for Books In Print. In 1872 he published the first issue of Publishers Weekly, in 1873 the first Publishers' Uniform Trade-List Annual (later the Publishers Trade List Annual), and in 1876 the first issue of Library Journal. In 1878 Leypoldt's company was acquired by Richard Rogers Bowker. Leypoldt and Bowker also founded two influential standard book-industry references: Literary Marketplace and Ulrich's Periodicals Directory.
In 1967, the Xerox Corporation acquired the R. R. Bowker company, and then, in 1985, sold it to Reed International (now Reed Elsevier). That same year, in 1985, Publishers Weekly—after 113 years as a part of R.R. Bowker—was transferred to the Cahners Publishing Company. In 2001, Cambridge Information Group acquired Bowker. In 2007, Cambridge Information Group merged Cambridge Scientific Abstracts with ProQuest Information and Learning to form ProQuest LLC, a privately held limited liability company based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and incorporated in Delaware. R. R. Bowker LLC was repositioned as an affiliate of ProQuest.
Bowker is the United States provider of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs), a code for identifying commercial books devised by Gordon Foster in 1967. An ISBN is currently placed on a book to uniquely identify it. ISBNs are available one at a time and in blocks up to 100,000 for a set fee. ISBNs may be purchased and maintained at Bowker's My Identifiers website www.myidentifiers.com. Many countries, including the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain, to name a few, charge for ISBNs. Canada and Mexico provide ISBNs free of charge as their ISBN agencies are government funded. Bowker USA charges $125 for one ISBN and offers substantial discounts on volume purchases.