Selling your e-book on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Apple or Kobo doesn’t require an ISBN, but it will be necessary, as soon as you start your books print version. Any book on your book shelf, library or in book stores has an ISBN.
ISBN is the International Standard Book Number, a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books published anywhere in the world. Parts of an ISBN are:
- group or country identified
- publisher identifier
- title identifier
- and the check digit
ISBN numbers are assigned by a group of agencies worldwide coordinated by the International ISBN Agency in London, England. In the United States, ISBN’s are assigned by the U.S. ISBN Agency: R.R. Bowker is the independent agent in the US for this system. You can order an ISBN online – or even better, a block of ten. On average it takes about two weeks for ISBN’s to be assigned. In addition to their ISBN prefixes, every publisher can also register their titles for free with Bowker to be included in the “Books In Print” worldwide databases. See also a former blog post here on this site:
You may encounter offers from other sources to purchase single ISBN’s at special offer prices. Companies that provide limited services such as distributing, retailing, bar code services, printing, such as aggregators or print-on-demand companies, should NOT assign ISBN’s from their company to your publications – unless you allow them to also hold the publishing rights. If you use one of these reassigned ISBN’s, you will NOT be correctly identified as the publisher. The result may be extensive costs to apply for a new ISBN and the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation. Remember: The one who ordered the ISBN from the official agency is listed as the publisher!
ISBN’s are assigned to publishers as follows: 1, 10, 100, or 1,000 numbers. The publisher registration fee is US $24.95 plus a service fee that starts at $250.00 for 10 ISBN’s. There’s also a $25 annual fee for each publisher, so whether you have one ISBN or a thousand, you’ll have to pay that additional amount too. For a new publisher to get an ISBN – or better ten – will cost (in 2013) US $250 (or US $25 per ISBN). Since you can get 10 ISBN’s for the same price as one, it is worth applying for books you have in mind too, rather than just the one you are right now going to publish. You can also get the bar code for your book from Bowker.
ISBN’s are emailed to publishers. Once a publisher has been assigned ISBN’s, they should be placed on the copyright page, encoded on the bar code, and the bar code placed on the back cover of the book. When a title is ready to be sold, it can be registered at “Books in Print” a worldwide book registry. “Books in Print” is the main directory that bookstores, online retailers, and libraries use when looking for books for their customers.
Where to order ISBN’s in major English-speaking countries:
see prices above
United Kingdom & Ireland
10 ISBN = £118.68
Single ISBN=Australian $40.00 and a block of 10 ISBNs=$80.00
Good news for Canadian authors and publishers: the ISBN application process is simple and free of charge – but only if you are living in Canada and your publishing company is registered in Canada. For all other countries check out the worldwide listing at “National ISBN Agencies“.
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