For authors trying to figure out what EAN is and if they need it. Got quite a few questions lately regarding this question.
While most retail products in the US are marked with a UPC symbol, virtually every other country uses the European Article Number (EAN). To provide world wide standardization in the sale and handling of books and because the book industry produces so many products annually, a special “country” with its own EAN prefix just for books has been designated in the EAN system — 978 for “Bookland” — which is used in the universal barcode system.
Any EAN which begins with the 978 prefix is called a Bookland EAN barcode and is used on books and book related products.
In Canada, getting an ISBN with barcode is free in the United States the charge is around $125. The bar code is part of the ISBN making the number 13 digits long.
When you get your own ISBN this registers the book to you the author not for example to Createspace or Amazon.
The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.