ISBN for Self-Publishers: Answers to 20 of your Questions

by Joel Friedlander on March 17, 2010 · 310 comments

barcodesampleOne of the areas that I get the most questions about is the use of the ISBN, the unique numeric identifier that’s used around the world to identify books. New self-publishers are especially concerned with making sure their books are registered properly, that everything is done so that their book can be sold without any problems or confusion.

Because this area is specific to the book business, there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about ISBN and how it works. I strongly recommend you use the resources provided by Bowker, the company resposible for ISBNs in the United States, on the ISBN website and at Bowker’s website.

But even faster, without any further delay, here are 20 answers to the most commonly-asked questions about ISBN.

Questions and Answers about ISBN

  1. What is an ISBN?
    ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a 13-digit number that’s used as a unique identifier for books. ISBN is used internationally.
  2. What do all the numbers mean?
    See my earlier article on decoding the ISBN.
  3. Why do we need ISBNs?
    We need them to identify each book that is published, and each edition of the same book. ISBN also identifies the publisher of the book. It is the standard ID number used to identify books by booksellers, libraries, book wholesalers and distributors.
  4. Should I get an ISBN?
    If you plan to sell your book in bookstores, to libraries, or through online retailers like, you will need an ISBN.
  5. Does a book have to be published to have an ISBN?
    ISBNs are issued to publishers, who then assign them to individual books. This can be done at any time, even before the book is written.
  6. Is the ISBN the bar code I see on the back of books?
    The bar code is a representation of the ISBN in a form that can be identified by scanners. The bar code might also have other information embedded in it, like the price of the book and the currency in which it is priced.
  7. Okay, do I need to have a bar code too?
    Only if you plan to sell your book in bookstores. If you only plan to sell online, or privately like at speaking engagements, you don’t need a bar code. Many publishers put them on their books anyway.
  8. If I get an ISBN, does that mean my book is copyrighted?
    No, ISBN is administered by a private company for the use of the international book trade. Copyright is administered by the Library of Congress and is an extension of intellectual property law.
  9. If I have an ISBN, does that mean my book will be in Books in Print?
    Once you have an ISBN you can go to BowkerLink to fill out the forms necessary for your book to be listed in Books in Print.
  10. Can self-publishers get an ISBN?
    A self-publisher is still a publisher, so yes, you just apply for an ISBN like anyone else.
  11. How do I get an ISBN?
    Go to, the ISBN website run by Bowker, which is the only company authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States. Click on “ISBN Identifiers” and you’ll be taken to a page where you can buy 1, 10, 100 or 1000 ISBNs.
  12. How many ISBNs should I buy?
    The least economical choice is to buy 1 ISBN. If you ever publish another edition of your book, or another book entirely, you will need more than one ISBN. I suggest you buy the 10 pack.
  13. What do ISBNs cost?
    A single ISBN today costs $125, while 10 ISBNs cost $250, 100 cost $575 and 1000 cost $1000. Note that the price per ISBN drops from $125 to $25 to $5.75 to $1.
  14. Isn’t it just a number? Why does a number cost $125?
    Many people are pondering this question, so far without an answer. Obviously, it’s not because of the cost of the product. Could there be another reason?
  15. Well, can I re-use my ISBN?
    No, sorry, once assigned to a book, an ISBN can never be reused.
  16. Where do I put the ISBN?
    You’ll print it on the copyright page, and it’s included in the Cataloging-in-Publication data block, if you use one. Otherwise, just print it on the copyright page and, of course, on the back cover as part of the bar code.
  17. I’m doing a print book and an ebook. Do I need two ISBNs, or can I use the same one?
    This is a matter of some discussion at the moment, since there are more and more electronic formats. The policy of assigning a separate ISBN to each and every edition is under review. Check back for more info.
  18. How about a hardcover and a softcover of the same book?
    You need a separate ISBN for each edition, to identify them for everyone who might want to find them in directories, catalogs and databases.
  19. If I revise my book, do I need to give it a new ISBN?
    If you only correct typographical errors, and don’t make any substantial changes to the text, you don’t need a new ISBN because it’s considered a reprint. A new edition would contain substantially new material, a major revision, or the addition of completely new elements. Anything that makes it a new book is likely to create a new edition and, therefore, need a new ISBN.
  20. How about if I just change the cover?
    You can continue to use the same ISBN, since the text has not changed.

Well, there you have it. In 20 questions and about 5 minutes, you’ve overcome the confusion about ISBN. Have a question you didn’t see answered here? Ask in the comments and we’ll run down the answer.

Takeaway: Getting the ISBN for your new publishing company is a necessary step to becoming a publisher and getting your book into print correctly. It’s not difficult once you understand how to do it.

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    { 289 comments… read them below or add one }

    Rhea December 7, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    Hello – I have a rookie question regarding buying barcodes along with isbn numbers. Apparently the barcodes cost $45 each at Thorpe-Bowker (Australia) and can be purchased along with the isbn number. BUT… there are websites where they generate barcodes for your isbn number FOR FREE!? so am I missing something here? whats the catch? why should I buy a $45 barcode if I can just get one generated for free?? please explain the difference between these ‘free barcode generators’ and purchasing a barcode officially… Thanks


    Joel Friedlander December 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    If the barcodes are imaged properly, there’s no difference. A barcode is a barcode. As long as it scans properly, you’re good. And there are also printers and print on demand vendors that routinely supply (free) barcodes for the books they are producing, and one of them is Lightning Source.


    Rhea December 9, 2014 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you Joel for clarifying… that is really helpful info :)


    Carl whitaker December 6, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    A small new UK publisher (online website only) has published my book It was not self published by me in so much as there was no fee. I have noticed it does not have a ISBN printed anywhere-just the publishers website. Deas this make my book look very unprofessional and will people generally think it’s self published or just a “pretend” book (if you know what I mean). Thank you kindly. Carl


    Chelsie Shakespeare December 3, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Hi there! I hope you can help me out. I can’t seem to find the answer to my question anywhere.

    I was published by a company that assigned an ISBN to my book, and then went of the business. The rights to my book are now completely mine and I’m going to self-publish. Can I use the same ISBN?

    Thank you!!


    Viken Shah November 27, 2014 at 4:19 am

    Hello Joel,

    I have taken ISBN through attorney. After that i changed formatting without editing texts (i.e. spacing ,..). It was 105 pages initially and after editing it increased to 192. Does it matter? I have not gone into printing still now.

    Please Reply.


    Lois November 26, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Hi Joel,
    I have just been approached by a POD publisher who has offered to “re-publish” my self-published book, at a substantial cost, so that they can “better help me market it.” I have no intention of accepting their offer; however, I do have a question about their offer. According to the lady who called me, among other things (including changing the size of my book), they would issue a new ISBN number for it. I was under the impression that once an ISBN number is assigned to a book, it remains with that book. Can a book have two ISBN numbers?
    Thanks very much for your time.


    Joel Friedlander November 26, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Hi Lois,

    ISBNs don’t “belong” to the books they’re assigned to, they belong to the publisher who they are issued to and who assigned them in the first place. If the book changes publishers, the new publisher will assign one of her own ISBNs to her new edition of the book.


    Lois November 27, 2014 at 4:06 am

    Hi again, Joel,
    Thank you so much for your quick answer and for clearing this up for me so that I have it for future reference.
    Thank you also for your website and for sharing so much valuable and needed information.


    Barbara November 25, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I have purchased my own ISBN and barcode, however, I am stuck on whether I should add a price on my book. Createspace recommends not putting a price on the book. However, that seems odd to me (1st book, so a lot green). I want to sell me book in local stores in my town. Are there benefits to not put a price on the book, and how do I determine the price of a non-fiction, 200 page black and white paperback, size 5.5 x 8.5 book. Any assistance or resources would be greatly appreciated.



    Gilles DeCruyenaere November 5, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Hi there!
    If I have a paperback selling through CreateSpace and I get paperbacks of the same book printed locally to distribute to local book stores, do they need different ISBN numbers? (I’m wondering if any physical differences between the different printers will matter, or even small formatting differences which may occur (?) using different printers?)
    Also, I’m in Canada (in case that makes a difference…)


    Heidi Thompson November 1, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Hi Joel,
    If I change the cover and title of the book, but keep the contents exactly the same, do I need a new ISBN?
    Heidi Thompson
    Author of Calm Focus Joy: The Power of Breath Awareness.


    vIQleS October 31, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    I’m helping a client self-publish (on createspace).

    The question I can’t find a definitive answer to is: Once we have an ISBN, do we have to buy a barcode, or can we just use a free online barcode generator?

    What do the paid for barcodes have that the free oned don’t?


    Ralph October 22, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Hi I have printed a paperback photobook and looking to distribute it.
    Apologies if the question sounds silly but in order to purchase an ISBN number do I need to set up a publishing company first or can I purchase one (or 10, as that seems the minimum in the UK) as a private individual?
    I would like to then put a sticker on the back of the book with the number and barcode, any suggestions for UK based companies that offer this sort of service?


    Deepak Sharma October 14, 2014 at 5:54 am

    I just want to know few things (1) If I am planning to publish an annual book. which i want to publish every year and year with same title then should I need to take new ISBN no every year. (2) Can I obtain a ISBN no in advance without publishing book. (3) If I registered any book title for ISBN then in future anyone also can take same name for ISBN also or it wil be unique title for us as like trademark.
    Looking forward for ur support.


    Joel Friedlander October 14, 2014 at 11:10 am


    1. If the content of your book or the title changes every year, you will need a new ISBN every year.
    2. Yes.
    3. Titles cannot be copyrighted in the U.S. and there are many books with the same title.


    Ramalingam October 3, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Dear Joel,
    Good Morning .
    I have downloaded your free book on publishing & ISBN.
    Thanks for so much of valued information for new authors-cum-publishers like me.
    Still I have a few specific questions to ask as given below:
    1-I have come out with my maiden book –hard versions printed by a Design & Research Forum in India recently and released in a National Event @ Bangalore.
    2-They have born the full cost of printing 1000 copies with full copy rights with me.
    3- 500 copies are printed with their own address as publishers – I have authorized them to use my copyrights for 500 copies only during August 2014.I have no financial stake among these 500 copies .
    4- They have given 500 printed copies as royalty to me with my own firm as the publishers and marketers- as printed inside .
    They have already given to me the PDF Versions for enabling me to sell as e-versions with my firm’s name etc .
    I have also agreed to give a service charge of 1/3 rd the price now fixed by them on pro-rata basis for these 500 copies only .
    5- As per oral agreements they are supposed to get the ISBN numbers for the book as they usually do it as a Research Forum .
    Till this date they have not got /given to me .
    I would like to know how far is it correct to use the same ISBN Codes by two publishers ? Copy rights remaining with me , the author .
    I intend to revise the selling prices and I intend to authorize some book sellers as agents to sell my hard copies in India by way of allowing discounts to them .
    6- If it is correct ,can I use the same ISBN code for my e-conversions of the same book into an e-book with same title without altering the basic contents ?
    7- I am from India only and now in USA on a private visit .
    I want to publish the same book as an e-book from US and will continue to sell my 500 printed copies from India .
    Can you advice me on whom I have to contact for the above plan of mine and get my requirements met economically and in faster time frame ?
    8-I would like to get clarifications or advice for my above questions .
    Please be free to seek more clarifications , if any, through this Forum .
    You know pretty well that each issue is unique in these aspects .
    Ramalingam K S
    DFM & Innovation Consultant
    Chennai – INDIA
    Now in Philly – USA

    Dt 3rd October 2014


    Ariel Yochanan October 2, 2014 at 11:18 am

    I live in the UK and am thinking of purchasing ISBNs for an ebook from the US because it’s cheaper. I might even opt for Australia or Newzealand where I can purchase single numbers rather than Blocks of 10. It might save money but are there any pitfalls with this approach?


    Alex September 27, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    What if my poetry book is already printed and i was wanting to purchase ISBNs and place them on the book is that possible?


    Joel Friedlander September 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Alex, there are companies that sell barcodes on stickers for just that purpose. Check out for one, look for “barcode labels.”


    Don September 25, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Can I use the same ISBN number used for my print book on my ebook? I read in the article this was still under review and was wondering if you had found the answer for this yet.

    Thank you!


    Joel Friedlander September 29, 2014 at 11:19 am

    Don, each separate edition of your book requires a separate ISBN. However, many people sell ebooks in Amazon’s Kindle store without an ISBN, since Amazon does not require one. But for editions sold by others, you’ll want to be able to differentiate between editions (print is one, ebook is another) with different ISBNs.


    Dr R.Bhattacharyya September 18, 2014 at 1:20 am

    I had ordered for a book titled: Principles of Instrumental Analysis of ISBN no. ISBN-13: 978-0495012016. However, the supplier gave me the book with ISBN-13: 978-0-495-12570-9 with same title and author names & both are same 6th edition. I am now confused how come this happen for the same book. Can you please help me out. Is this properly registered book that I have received?


    Jackie September 18, 2014 at 12:57 am

    I self published with Amazon. I have an ASIN number. Now i want to have a few print books around the house to give to friends or reviewers. Can I put the ASIN instead of an ISBN, and no bar code?


    Joel Friedlander September 18, 2014 at 10:55 am

    Jackie, you can’t generate a barcode from an ASIN to my knowledge. If you just want to give them to friends, you don’t need any numbers at all. If you want to get reviewers to review them, I suggest you get an ISBN and associated barcode.


    Chris Behrens September 16, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    I am working on getting my book into hardcover format with IngramSpark. I am using Jera Publishing for formatting, and they asked if I want the price built into the Bar Code? Should I? Or not? What does this do for a self-published author, hurt, help, or hinder???


    Joel Friedlander September 16, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Chris, it’s mostly irrelevant. The majority of retailers maintain their own pricing database, which is accessed when the barcode is scanned at the register. You should, however, make sure you have a “human readable” price somewhere on the back cover. On the books I do for clients, I usually use the “null” barcode—it doesn’t include the price embedded in the barcode.


    Chris Behrens September 16, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    As I set my account up, I believe I went with 19.99 for the price (I will check.) So you suggest I place this on the cover? Would it matter much if I didn’t?

    Also, I got my first proof of my paperback from C-space, and text had a slant on several pgs. Very disappointed. because it is a children’s book, font is bigger and so i think is noticeable. They are replacing, but I have concern with this. I checked my personal library and found one trad. pub. book with slanted text. Was shocked, never saw it when read it! Is this a common issue? How does it happen???


    Joel Friedlander September 16, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    You need the price on the back cover if you intend to sell the book through retail outlets. If you don’t, then you don’t need it. I can’t comment on the type distortion or whatever it is because I haven’t seen it. Consult with the CreateSpace customer service people and I’m sure they’ll help you out.


    Chris Behrens September 21, 2014 at 6:53 am

    Okay, thanks, just seeing this note now. Had the price placed on the cover. I’ve been in contact with Createspace about the text issues.
    Thanks for the info.!

    Kevin September 16, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Hi Joel

    I’ve had my book up on Amazon and was locked into a 90 day contract, which has ended leaving me to freely distribute my book to other places. I also want to upload to Smashwords. This will require me to take a free ISBN if I want my book to appear on Kobo, Apple and Sony. Can I therefore have both an Amazon ASIN and a Smashwords ISBN running concurrently?


    Joel Friedlander September 16, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Yes, no problem with having both an ASIN and ISBN, since the ASIN will only be used on Amazon.


    Terry September 15, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Actually, you no longer need ISBN numbers for publishing with retailers. See


    Joel Friedlander September 15, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Terry, that is exactly wrong, and not what Will said:

    First: if you want your print book on shelves in either bookstores or libraries, you’ll need an ISBN.

    While you can publish in Amazon’s Kindle store, most book retailers need and rely on the ISBN for product tracking, which is exactly why it came into being in the first place.


    Terry September 16, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Yes, if you want a printed book you need a publisher and ISBN. However, if you are only interested in electronic publishing, which I think a large and growing number of authors are, save the money. To quote Will from the referenced article:

    “These days you don’t need to have print books in actual bookstores to ensure that readers will find your stories. These days you can go to the major digital retailers to sell your book. The big five ebook retailers are Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Sony–to lesser extents there are a few other places like Diesel and such, but I think those big five cover it. Now, bonus question: guess how many of those retailers require you have an ISBN. If you said “none,” congratulations… You can simply upload your book to any of those five places…(And my recommendation is to do so directly…)”


    Daniel September 14, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Im 23 and I started writing since 5 years of age. I guess im a type of guy to let his mind wonder. Attention deficit but; in a small brief sentence I will explain tht I set my pen to the test. MY LIFE goal is to be as great as edgar allan poe. I write poetry and short stories to novels. My most tht I work on so happens to be the poetry. Its said that its the hardest to publish in books. Because everyone writes but my way of writing is known to be unique in various of different ways. My family and friends read only some of my work but, Im hoping to understand the process of publishing and selling. Im not in writing to become rich only to put a smile on peoples faces.


    Bernadette September 9, 2014 at 11:27 pm


    Thank you for clarifying above what ISBN’s are and how they can be used.
    I have a UK issued ISBN, and I need a US ISBN to produce the ebook version of the same book, with a different art cover, in the USA.

    Is it better to get a new ISBN or should I be using the ISBN converter in Bowker?

    I don’t really know what the ISBN converter in Bowker is for, I hope you can help shed some light into this.


    Bernadette B.


    Bernadette September 9, 2014 at 11:26 pm


    Thank you for clarifying above what ISBN’s are and how they can be used.
    I have a UK issued ISBN, and I need a US ISBN to produce the ebook version of the same book, with a different art cover, in the USA.

    Is it better to get a new ISBN or should I be using the ISBN converter in Bowker?

    I don’t really know what the ISBN in Bowker is for, I hope you can help shed some light into this.


    Bernadette B.


    Amara-Celine McKenzie September 6, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    Can you please tell me how to look up my book sales by isbn number?

    CreateSpace will not give me the time of day. I am finally starting to market it, and I need to know if my click-throughs are making an impact.


    Ashish September 3, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Joel: You have clarified it in no uncertain terms that the publisher should use ISBN issued in their country. My book is ready and it is time bound. In India, ISBN is free but it takes 6 weeks to get it! For listing on Amazon India, ISBN is a must. I am really stuck. Is there any other solution i.e to obtain ISBN through some other agency and use it for book published in India?


    L. Nahay September 1, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I have my block of ten, and am set for my books.
    However, I’d like to release a couple of short e-stories for free. To keep myself listed as the publisher, do I have to give them a number?


    Joel Friedlander September 2, 2014 at 11:01 am

    L. If you only plan on selling them through the Kindle store, you won’t need an ISBN since Amazon will assign an ASIN for their internal record keeping, and they will show you as the publisher. To sell them elsewhere, you will need a unique ISBN for each item.


    Cécile Chabot August 20, 2014 at 7:35 am

    Hi Joel,
    Thank you for another great article.

    That said, I guess that, though implied, your article should be read as “ISBN for US-based Self-Publishers”… Or is it “ISBN for Self-Publishers publishing in English in the US”?

    The last is the crux to my question; is a non-US based self-publisher who plan to publish on in English need a US ISBN? One given (well, sold) by BowkerLink?

    As a Belgian resident (and national), I must request my ISBNs from AFNIL, the French body managing ISBNs for French-speaking countries (France, Belgium, French-speaking Switzerland).

    …Which I have done for the books I’ve already self-published in French.
    …Which is a free service (they give -really give- you your ISBNS by batches of 10).

    I will soon publish an English translation of one of these books and wondered whether I would need an ISBN from BowkerLink or could use one from AFNIL?



    Joel Friedlander August 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Cécile, the ISBNs should be issued in the country where the publisher is located which, in your case, is Belgium.


    Jan Hurst August 1, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Hi Joel,
    For some time I’ve really enjoyed reading your trustworthy advice to authors and have learned a lot. Thanks for that!
    In June I had asked a couple questions that I hope you can answer: “What’s so bad (or not) about having your book’s publisher listed as someone else if they helped you publish your book” and “Can ISBNs be ‘re-registered’ in the author’s name at a later date?”
    I’d really appreciate hearing your thoughts about these.


    Joel Friedlander August 1, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Hi Jan,

    There’s nothing inherently wrong with someone else being listed as the publisher, but many authors are establishing their own publishing imprints at the same time they are publishing books. Depends on your aims. And no, to my knowledge you can’t “re-register” an ISBN. The ISBN prefix is assigned to a specific publisher, and that assignment carries through to all the individual ISBNs associated with that prefix.


    Joe Kelly July 18, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Hi Joel,

    I love your website. Over the last couple of months since I’ve decided to self publish my work, every Google search with a question seems to have led me to your site and it’s become my somewhat online bible!

    I’m just preparing to publish my first book, but I have a few questions in regards to the ISBNS which I have. I bought a block of ten recently and two have been registered, one for paperback and one for .mobi format, for this book.

    My first question is: Do I use the .mobi format ISBN for Amazon and the paperback ISBN for createspace? Or do both go under the .mobi format?

    My second question is: My cover designer wants me to supply the bar code. Should I supply a bar code for the .mobi ISBN and the paperback ISBN or just the paperback ISBN bar code?

    My third question is: When I bought the ISBN codes, I had to give a price for the publication. I didn’t really know what price so I gave one (7.99). When I’m making this ISBN bar code, do I have to include that price or can I leave the price bar code at 9000? Which would be correct or more professional?

    My last question is: When registering the ISBN codes, I supplied the author’s name, my own, but after thinking about it, I’m wondering if I should have dropped my middle initial which I included in my registration. Do I have to use the exact name I registered with on the front cover?

    Sorry for all the questions but I’d really appreciate your advice. I’ve been working on getting this self published as my own publisher for a few months now and I’m so close to getting it over the line now and I just want to make sure I don’t make any mistakes!

    Thank you for all the free advice you’ve been supplying!



    canway Johnson July 5, 2014 at 2:56 am

    Hi Joel,
    I live in Canada and I am publishing my first book. Can you give me the step by step info I need if I am to publish with the hope of selling in the US and all other countries. Do I get a US ISBN number or would I need a different number? Not sure if you address copyright here but would I need to copyright it in the US only if I wanted it on both the US and international markets?


    Jan Hurst June 24, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Joel,
    I am a publishing assistant, working under the business name of Author’s Voice Publishing. That is, I help people publish their books by supplying services such as editing, design, and preparing files for print or e-book. I also offer the service of providing ISBNs, barcodes, and LCCNs. If I am listed as the publisher, what’s so different than any other publisher who publishes an author’s book for them? I’ve heard “horrors!” and warnings to indie authors about this. I’m always faithful about passing on any inquiries to my authors. What do you think, Joel? And is it possible to someday re-register the ISBN in the author’s name?


    Kevin Parker June 27, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I would like to revise a book by keeping the original content and adding material to the book. How much of the book needs to have changes before it may be considered a new revision. I would like to add some new chapters. Is that OK for it to be a new revision?

    Kind Regards,


    Joel Friedlander July 15, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Kevin, the general guideline is that if 10% or more of the book is changed, it’s a new edition (and you’ll also need a new ISBN).


    Vijay Atawane June 15, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    A company called ISBN Services ( offers ISBN number at USD 18.99. They claim to be authorized re-seller of Bowker. Are they genuine? Please advice. I want to buy an ISBN number through them.


    Joel Friedlander June 16, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Vijay, you can use those ISBNs, but keep in mind (as it says on their site) that the “Publisher listed in ISBN database (is) Primedia E-launch LLC” NOT your publishing imprint. Also, if you want to print at CreateSpace, you cannot use these ISBNs at all.


    Tasneem June 11, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Joel,

    Thanks for this helpful article. I am just getting started selling on Amazon. I have an inventory of books and dvd’s available individually or as a set. These are my own products. When I go to sell on Amazon it does not let me add my own product, I can only choose to sell a product that is already there. If I get an ISBN for my book will it automatically show up in Amazon? Do I need an ISBN before I can start to sell on Amazon? Thanks so much for your help!


    atothewr May 29, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    So, if I understand all this, I don’t technically need an ISBN number if I just publish an e book. I don’t plan to sell paperbacks or anything like that, just trying to sell an e book to various e book sites.


    Joel Friedlander May 29, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    atothewr, if you plan to sell your ebook at Amazon, you don’t need an ISBN. For most other retailers, you will need an ISBN.


    Aaron Williams April 27, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    How do I resolve Bowker supplying me with a flawed ISBN and alerting me to it after the books were already en route from our printer. Now we have a major hassle with the first printing of 600 copies that are time sensitive in distribution for bookseller and library fairs, book stores and online sales and library cataloguing. Requests for remedies have been ignored.


    Joel Friedlander April 28, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Aaron, so sorry to hear about your troubles. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a “flawed ISBN” before, and I have no help for you other than to try to get Bowker to take responsibility if it was their fault. Good luck.


    Lucille Procopio April 14, 2014 at 7:02 am

    Just one question: My P.O.D. is CreateSpace and I am listed and sell on Amazon. Since they do not distribute to Barnes & Noble, I want to also use Lightning Source (IngramSpark) as my P.O.D. because I want B & N to be able to easily order my books. Right now they order but it is prepaid and no refunds. Can I just leave my book with CreateSpace with the ISBN # that is mine ( not CreateSpace’s) and submit to IngramSpark with a new ISBN #? I purchased a block of 10. I self-published and started my own publishing company for my own books which is RoseLamp Publishing, LLC.


    Alex April 13, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Hello, Joel! Could you help me with ISBN assignment. We’ve registered at myidentifiers (self-publisher organization type) with a name of my friend and a company’s name.

    We want to publish several versions of a book, how can we edit the authors name? (when we manage ISBN, there isn’t even a form to fill the authors name). We also want to publish our friend’s book with his name on it, probably several books of different authors.
    Maybe we should have registered as “publisher”?

    And here comes another question, it’s not really a registered publishing business, that’s why we chose “self-publisher”, do we have the same options as a publishing company?


    Anna Aizic April 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    thanks to all for all the articles, esp for a newbie! My book The Circles of- anushka’s Life-is currently with editorial service and goes live in few weeks as eBook and soft cover, and the information in this blog is invaluable!

    Thanks much


    Brian Bradford April 8, 2014 at 1:46 am

    Hello from the U/K
    How can you confirm how many e-book sales you have. Other than using your publisher. Or are you in their hands completely.

    Brian Bradford


    Joel Friedlander April 8, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Brian, if you are with a traditional publisher, you’ll get your sales figures from them. If you’ve uploaded your book yourself to Kindle or other retailers, you can go into your dashboard to see reports on recent sales.


    ElJay April 2, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    I have just self-published my book under my own company name and would like to sell it through Amazon. However, Amazon does not recognize my title or ISBN. Can you tell me how to officially release my title and ISBN so that they can be looked up and recognized by interested parties? Do I have to release it somehow, as both publisher and author?

    Thanks very much for your time.


    Sherry Fortner April 1, 2014 at 6:02 pm

    Hi Joel,
    First, let me say thank you for all the information and help you give everyone. I originally published my book through CreateSpace. I have now, since I am figuring out how all this works, bought my own block of ISBNs. I called Bowker for help, but they have banker’s hours, 8-5, and they are now closed. When I download my cover, will they put on the ISBN and barcode, or will I have to figure out how to do it first? I tried your barcode link, but it appears broken.


    Deni B. Sher April 1, 2014 at 10:00 am

    (Site is not up yet.) Question: Is it possible to have a link from an Ebook for the reader to hear a song? Can you have a link to my website from the Ebook? And, if so…would someone with a Kindle be able to hear the song from their Kindle?
    Thank you in advance for your answer. Your site is extremely helpful.


    Joel Friedlander April 1, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Deni, you can link to your site from inside your ebook, but keep in mind when a reader clicks the link it will depend on the device the book is being read on what happens next. For instance, the Kindle Fire has a browser built into it, and will load your site in the browser.


    Surya Vaidyanathan March 27, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Hi, just a small question. Will I have to have an ISBN printed on the book cover if it’s to be given out to shops and libraries? Or is it enough if it’s registered under it?


    Joel Friedlander March 27, 2014 at 9:38 am

    Surya, the ISBN is used by retail shops to track their inventory and orders. It’s printed on the back cover (usually) in the form of a Bookland EAN barcode, which is simply a scannable version of the ISBN itself, sometimes with the price also encoded. The ISBN should also be printed on the book’s copyright page.


    Shaina March 21, 2014 at 9:19 am


    Would working with a publisher who focuses on helping self publishers distribute ebooks be a bad idea if that company is based in a different country than the author?

    I feel that since ISBN is an international number this should not be an issue if I was assigned an Italian ISBN despite being in the US.

    Do international publishing groups purchase ISBN for each country they have authors in or simply from where they are headquartered?

    Thank you so much for your great knowledge!


    Joel Friedlander March 27, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Hi Shaina,

    ISBNs are issued to publishers based on where the publisher’s business is located. That doesn’t restrict where the books can be sold, and the ISBN should remain the same, since the underlying book is the same. Of course, translations receive their own ISBN based on the location of the publisher who issues the translation. Hope that helps.


    Scott Henderson March 17, 2014 at 11:08 am


    I’ve been given an ISBN number by my client who is self-publishing. I’ve gone to several Code creating web sites and they all change the last number, the check number, to an 8? I’ve done the check and it should be 6 like the number I input into these web sites, but for some reason it gets changed to 8? Can you tell me what is happening here?



    Joel Friedlander March 17, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Sounds like you might be confusing the 10-digit ISBN with the 13-digit ISBN, because they will commonly have different check digits.

    In this case:

    Your 10-digit ISBN is 1-890370-26-6
    Your 13-digit ISBN is 978-1-890370-26-8

    Hope that helps. They are the same ISBN, only the “check digit” has changed.


    Beth March 7, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    I finished my young readers book on and found my choice of interior text paper made the price of the book very expensive for my readers. It’s 182 pages, color soft cover, 5X8, with black/white interior text. I have donated a number of my book PDFs to non-profits as a good will gesture and subsequent exposure as a new author. Not believing the book is affordable, I purchased a number of my own books and gave them to family without an ISBN. Before I commit to 10 ISBNs (as I will be writing more books), I want to have print the same book with less expensive, cream colored text paper. This will lower their printing cost and thus, make it easier on my readers to buy the book. I will also offer the pricier book as an option at the website bookstore. My question is; Do I need two different ISBNs for the same book title, one for the book printed in high quality paper and the other with less costly paper? Thank you for any suggestions you may have.


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