One of the more ambiguous problems that Self Published authors face in their adventure to publication is the debate of the ISBN, more specifically what they are and why do you need one?
What do all the numbers mean?
ISBN’s, or International Standard Book Numbers, are a thirteen digit number that is often printed as a part of a books barcode. This unique number system was invented in 1965 and is used to identify your book across the world. It is a combination of codes breaking down your regional group, publisher and title and if you want your book printed you will need to register an ISBN for it.
Why is having an ISBN number so important?
The main reason is that it identifies your book and book like products internationally so that booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors can not only find your book but also market it more efficiently. There is always a strong possibility that some one else in the sea of authors will have the same title as yours, with multiple editions, so your ISBN is essential for customers to differentiate between your book and all the others when ordering. It’s important to note that while it’s a specific number for your work, ISBN’s are not a part of copy write. Unless you live in Australia, where you automatically own the copy write to your artistic endeavours, you will still need to register your works through the Copywrite Office (U.S) or the Intellectual Property Office (UK).
How do you get one?
The good news is that there are a few options out there. If you plan on releasing one title or a thousand Thorpe-Bowker has multiple packages at whole sale prices as does Nielsen in the UK. Prices can start from $42 – $125 for just one, but the more you buy the cheaper they end up each.
Can you get free ones?
There are publishing houses like CreateSpace and Lulu that give you the option of using one of their free ISBNs or you can still provide your own. However be aware, if you use one of their free ISBN’s they will be listed as the publisher of record, even though you will still retain all your rights.
How many am I going to need? Can’t I just use the same one?
ISBNs, while handy for people to find your book, are also limited to their single book format i.e. Ebooks, audiobooks, hardcovers, soft covers are all separate formats. You cannot use the same ISBN for your paperback and your ebook and for the moment there is no such thing as an e-ISBN.
What about E-Books?
ISBN’s are necessary for printed editions of your book but ebooks are another more shadowy story. At the moment you don’t need an ISBN number to publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook, Apple, Kobo or Google. In fact according to the most recent study by Author Earnings at least 30% of the ebooks being purchased in the U.S alone do not use ISBN’s, making all of the industry marketing surveys carried out by Bowker, Nielsen, AAP and BISG grossly inaccurate.
The beauty of the self publishing world is that there are so many different choices you can make while managing your project and ISBNs are no different, only you will ultimately know what’s best for your book. Knowledge is power in this industry and with the torrent of information out there staying well educated and knowing what is required in all aspects of publishing is essential for your success.
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As Writers what are your thoughts on ISBNS? If they are mandatory should they be free? Or like much in the rapidly changing Publishing Industry is it time to search for another option?