Why, when and how to use ISBN–free or paid.

Buying an ISBN and when and how to get free ISBNs.

ISBN or International Standard Book Number is a 13-digit number that’s used as a unique identifier for books. ISBN is used internationally. It used to be a 10 digit number. (If you want your book in bookstores and libraries your book needs an ISBN, and one that you’ve paid yourself–meaning not a Createspace, or Barnes and Noble or other imprints.) You’d also need an ISBN when you want your book to be sent to the Library of Congress.

Most of the info here you can get from Createspace or on the web but I thought I’d make things simple for you and have them all on this one page.

Some countries like Canada provide free ISBNs, but here In the USA you can purchase your ISBN at Bowker. If you intend to write more than one book (and even if you don’t plan to,) buy the package of ten. In time you’ll probably use all because each format requires a different ISBN—an ebook uses a different ISBN from a print book. Alternatively, you can give, trade, or sell to an author friend—you can do a co-op and pay for half and your friend pays for the other half.

It’s $125 for a single ISBN, and $250 for a pack of ten. That’s $25 for each, now. See what I mean? If a pack of ten isn’t enough, the next one up is 100 for $575.

Why buy so many when you only need one?

If you only intend to publish on Amazon (Kindle and Amazon print book at Create Space) you don’t have to buy an ISBN. Amazon will provide for you. (unless you absolutely want to.) If you use Smashwords and Draft2Digital and you distribute to other e-retailers you might want to buy your own ISBN but even these places provide free ISBNS too. (You cannot use your Amazon ISBN for these places.)

Smashwords will give you an ISBN but, again, it’s better to have your own if you want to distribute to libraries like Overdrive (which is a vendor that sells rights to the public library systems.) libraries typically will not order print books with free ISBNs.

Once your book is ready you need to get the word out and the best way is to invest in a small sum on author tried and tested site. here is a list. Be sure to check your email for the guidelines, too.

There are some problems with the configuration of the opt-in shortcode

Also, if you ever want your print book to be in physical bookstores you’d need an ISBN –when you print on Lighting Source. Bookstores do NOT like Amazon ISBN—for obvious reasons (competition) , and will NOT buy your physical books if you print using Amazon’s Create Space. So you’d certainly need an ISBN for that—which you can get from Bowker.

Bowker will try to sell you a bunch of other services, like copyright etc. Don’t buy these. It’s not needed and is a waste. All manuscripts are protected by the US copyright laws. You don’t need to buy additional copyrights or hire a lawyer. Save your money. Use your funds for more needful things like editing, and also book covers. Advertising is also more beneficial.

Other things Bowker will try to sell you are, barcodes (you can get them for free here,) QR codes (not necessary—and you can get them here for free, too,) and other widgets and gadgets. Resist the temptation to buy.  There are plenty of free and minimal cost options so be sure to check your author business website first.

For now if you need an ISBN, go ahead:

  1. Buy your ten-pack Bowker ISBN—click here It makes sense if you want to write two books even because when you think about the fact that you'd need one for ebook, one for print, another when you have an new edition etc, it makes sense to buy a pack since there is no due date for these.
  2. Also, if you ever want your book translated to other languages these would need a different ISBN as well.
  3. Use the ISBNs for books other than Amazon (although you can opt to use your own ISBN for Amazon too—although I think that’s a waste of money.) You’d need one ISBN for each version—ebook and print book have different ISBNs. Eventually if you translate your book into other languages you’d need another ISBN.

Amazon Createspace tells it best on your options for when and how to use your ISBN—or should you use your ISBN.

What are my ISBN options when printing with Amazon?

You have three ISBN options: you can either use a CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN, a Custom Universal ISBN*, or you can use your own ISBN. Custom ISBN option is offered through an agreement with Bowker®.

  Price Imprint Distributors
CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN Free CreateSpace Independent
Publishing Platform
CreateSpace
Custom Universal ISBN* $99 You choose You choose
Provide Your Own ISBN Existing ISBN
Required
You choose You choose

FREECreateSpace-Assigned ISBN

  • CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform is your book's imprint of record. If you select Amazon.com or Amazon's European websites as distribution channels, this imprint will be reflected on your book's detail page.
  • You can sell your book through Amazon.com, Amazon's European websites, a CreateSpace eStore, and all Expanded Distribution
  • This ISBN can only be used with the CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Your book's ISBN information will be registered with BooksInPrint.com®

$99Custom Universal ISBN*

  • You can use this ISBN with any publisher.
  • You choose your book's imprint of record. If you select Amazon.com or Amazon's European websites as distribution channels, this imprint will be reflected on your book's detail page.
  • You can sell your book through Amazon.com, Amazon's European websites, a CreateSpace eStore, and some†Expanded Distribution
  • Your book's ISBN information will be registered with BooksInPrint.com®

Provide Your Own ISBN

  • You can purchase your own ISBN from Bowker or through your local ISBN agency. (Note---some countries give you free ISBN, like Canada, and also the UK. But it's not so in the USA. Just be sure you don't buy at some of the discount sites as they may not work--a friend of mine found this out the hard way, $200 later.)
  • If you are reprinting your book, the title, author name, and binding type must remain the same. Every new edition requires a new ISBN.
  • Your book's imprint must match what's on file with your ISBN.
  • You can sell your book through Amazon.com, Amazon's European websites, an eStore, and some†Expanded Distribution

About the Author EmmaRight

Emma Right is a multiple award-winning and bestselling author and award-winning copywriter. When not busy caring for her homeschooled children and unschooled pets, she mentors wannabe authors to write and publish their first book, as well maximize their author business.

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