Thursday, January 20, 2011

ISBN info

Have you ever wondered where ISBNs  (that 13-digit number and barcode) come from? An excellent source of information is the International ISBN Agency. Their FAQ page answers questions such as I am not a publisher; can I still obtain an ISBN? (The answer is Yes, by the way.) Links to the many national ISBN agencies are there, and quite a bit more info.

If you’re an author who is working on a digital version of an out-of-print or new book, of special interest is a PDF with the title Guidelines for the assignment of ISBNs to e-books. It answers questions such as If I publish in two or more different file formats (e.g. epub, PDF) should I assign separate ISBNs? and How can all the different versions of an e-book be linked together?

There is now a page on our blog called Indie Links where useful info about independent publishing of digital books will be found. Pages can be accessed using the green tabs along the top.


  1. This is such an important topic (although not a very glamorous one). I wrote an article on my blog a while back called "Why Apps need ISBN numbers" at . Granted, it's already showing it's age as things are moving so rapidly in this business and affiliate purchasing of ebooks is now becoming possible, but it might make a good companion read. Thanks for posting this Loreen! :) e

  2. An ISBN number is the way to keep track of different editions for different formats, so it would be nice if every retailer used them (right Apple?)

  3. No, not glam, but important, even to novelists, for whom it might be a little less complicated. I was just researching this for myself. Lots of self-publishing ventures like Amazon's CreateSpace provide authors free ISBNs, but then CreateSpace is the publisher of record. As I understand it, if you want to offer your ebook through channels other than Amazon, you couldn't use the Amazon-provided ISBN, you'd have to get another one. It might be best to purchase blocks of ISBNs from R. R. Bowker directly.

    I found this post on obtaining your own ISBNs. It's five years old, but I think it's still valid.

    And here's R.R. Bowker's site, which tells you how to apply for blocks of ten ISBNs (around $250).

    -- Laura