What is an ISBN? - article

When it comes time to publish your written work there is a technical concern you cannot ignore. It is your book’s ISBN.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. An ISBN provides a unique numerical identifier for each edition of a published book. One ISBN is assigned to the paperback edition of your book, while a different one will be assigned to the hardback edition. Yet another one will be assigned to the ebook edition.

The life of an ISBN begins in the early planning and production stages and proceeds all the way through a book’s publication and promotion.

The ISBN system is recognized in over 170 countries throughout the world and it will play a big part in your sales and distribution. First, it is a unique number that can be tracked for sales analysis and rights management. It can also be used to organize bibliographic data storage and library information management.

ISBNs are used for a broad range of publications and media. They are not just for printed media, but are also used to identify audiobooks on both CD and DVD, as well as other electronic media. For example, computer software that is used for educational purposes and publications that have components which are text-based will need ISBNs.

Products that don’t use the ISBN system include ongoing and unfinished work, like newspapers and periodicals. Other products that don't require ISBNs include personal resumes, advertising leaflets, printed music, art prints without text, and emails.

How do I Get an ISBN?

In the United States, you can buy your ISBNs from Bowker. Bowker can also help you to produce your pricing barcodes. Barcodes are something that self-published or independent authors need to acquire if you ever intend to sell your printed book in brick and mortar stores. ISBNs can be purchased individually for $125 or in bulk quantity for a savings. A block of 10 ISBNs for $295 is the most common purchase quantity since many authors publish in multiple formats or know they will be publishing additional books in the future. You can also purchase an ISBN bundled with a barcode for $150.

Authors or publishers outside of the United States must apply for ISBNs via their national ISBN agency

Another option is to consider working with a supported self-publishing services provider or self-publishing website. Some of them may offer you a free ISBN in addition to the option of buying one through them. One important thing to note – whoever buys the ISBN is the publisher of record. So if you truly want to self-publish and want to create your own publishing imprint, you’ll need to purchase the ISBNs yourself. If that’s not important to you, the publishing service providers can be a great resource for many things, including securing an ISBN and barcode for your book.

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