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What a Self-Publisher Needs to Know about ISBN Numbers


What is an International Standard Book Number (ISBN)?

International Standard Book Numbers, also known as ISBNs or ISBN numbers, are required to publish and distribute a book through booksellers. ISBN numbers are used to identify books across the world, and nearly all book sellers require books have a unique ISBN number.

Who Can Sell ISBN Numbers?

Bowker is the only agency in the United States that can issue ISBN numbers. Buying an ISBN directly from Bowker at ISBN.org is the only way that you will be the owner of that ISBN.

A word of warning: ISBNs are non-transferrable. If you purchase an ISBN from any organization other than Bowker, you won't be the owner. If you are interested in purchasing an ISBN, we advise you to visit ISBN.org and purchase directly from Bowker Identifier Services.

When purchasing the ISBN number, you will be able to also buy a barcode for $25. If you don't purchase a barcode at the time of purchasing an ISBN from Bowker, DiggyPOD can create a barcode (for the same price) and we will incorporate the price of the book into the barcode and also place it on the book back cover.

We recommend that you purchase our barcode creation service, because we charge the same price for placing the barcode on your book cover as creating the barcode. We will also incorporate the price you isbn number barcodewant into the barcode as well.

But always buy your book's ISBN directly from Bowker if you want to own the rights to your book as the publisher.

How Much Should an ISBN Number Cost?

Bowker sells a single ISBN for $125. Bowker also sells a block of 10 numbers for $295.

Are Discounted and Free ISBN Numbers Legitimate?

Be wary of a book publishing or book printing company that offers discounted, bulk or free ISBN numbers. Any company that does so has purchased ISBNs in volume. If they're reselling or giving those ISBN numbers away, they — the company — will be listed as the publisher of your original work. ISBNs also cannot be transferred from owner to owner. If you want to self-publish your book, be listed as publisher, and own the rights to the book, you should buy an ISBN number from Bowker.

Do I Need an ISBN?

If you want to sell your book in a store, you need an ISBN number. Note: each version of the book (i.e. hardback vs. paperback, ePub vs. PDF) needs its own ISBN number. This is where buying a block of ten ISBNs from Bowker can sometimes make more sense than buying a single one.

If, however, you are publishing a book for non-commercial purposes, you don't need an ISBN number. Examples of this are family cookbooks or a book you'll be exclusively giving away.

Four Parts of an ISBN

The ISBN number consists of four parts:

  1. The group identifier (0-1 for English-speaking countries)
  2. The publisher code
  3. The item number (title of the book)
  4. A checksum character (check digit)

Have Questions about ISBN Numbers?

Don't hesitate to call us at (877) 944-7844. Our DiggyPOD support team is happy to answer any questions you have.


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