What is an ISBN?

ISBN is an acronym which stands for International Standard Book Number. The ISBN is needed for publishing and distributing a book via authorized booksellers. Booksellers worldwide require books to have an exclusive ISBN. No two books can have the same ISBN. The ISBN is used to distinguish and locate books all over the world. Booksellers will not be capable of finding your book without the ISBN.

Who is authorized to provide the ISBN?

Bowker is the only official source for purchasing ISBNs in the United States. Bowker will link the ISBN to your specific book. From then on, anytime you want to find your book anywhere in the world, just use the ISBN.

You cannot transfer the ISBN of another book to your own book. You will not be considered the owner of your book if you buy your ISBN from other sources, aside from Bowker.

What is the cost of an ISBN?

The price varies, depending on the quantity bought. A single ISBN costs $125, while a bulk of 10 ISBNs is only $295. Check the Bowker website for the most current prices.

Be careful of other companies that offer volume discounts and free ISBNs. The company might have bought from Bowker in volume and are now reselling their excess ISBNs. Remember that the company who originally bought the ISBN from Bowker is acknowledged as the publisher. That means, the company becomes recognized as the publisher of your work. As a self-publisher, if you want to be acknowledged as the publisher and owner of the book, you must buy your ISBN straight from Bowker.

Is an ISBN needed for each version?

Yes. Each version needs an ISBN. A paperback version requires its own ISBN separate from the hardbound version, as well as the ePub and PDF versions. It is for this reason that you may want to get several ISBNs instead of just one ISBN. Through the ISBN, booksellers can help customers understand the exact version they are buying.

Remember the ISBN is useful only if you plan to sell your book in bookstores. Bookstores need the ISBN to keep track of all the versions of all the books they sell.

Relevance of the ISBN

The ISBN contains a group identifier for English speaking countries, the publisher code, the title of the book, and a check digit to ensure uniqueness of the number. With that information, booksellers and customers readily know the author of the book, the publisher and what the book is about.

Booksellers can use the ISBN to track your sales, monitor your inventory and catalog your books. The number remains unique forever. You can locate a book even after the book is no longer sold. As a self-publisher, if you want to get 100 % of your net sales, use an ISBN.

What is a Barcode?

A barcode is a graphical representation of the book’s ISBN. In the United States, it is also used for pricing. The barcode makes it easier to scan and capture the price for point of sales transactions.

Barcodes are also available at Bowker. However, unlike the ISBN, you can also get the barcode from BookSelfPublishing.com. We can create a barcode for you, with the book’s price integrated as part of the barcode.

Barcodes are a benefit to booksellers and self-publishers

The barcode on your book contains information about the book, the ISBN and the price of your book. Booksellers require books to have a barcode so they can easily scan the barcode and capture all the information relevant to the book and its sale.

Barcodes are available at Bowker. However, you don’t have to get a barcode when you buy the ISBN. The printing or publishing company can create a barcode for you, incorporating the price of your book.

BookSelfPublishing.com will create your barcode for the same fee as Bowker. In addition, we can place the barcode on the book cover for free.

The book’s ISBN should be bought only from Bowker if you want to be recognized as the publisher.