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

by Joel Friedlander on March 17, 2010 · 268 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.

Be Sociable, Share!

    { 248 comments… read them below or add one }

    Hamish MacDonald March 17, 2010 at 3:22 am

    Brilliant! This is yet another quality contribution to indie publishers. I wish I’d read this article back in 2006 when I published my second and third books.

    I made a terrible mistake then and bought ISBNs from a third party who were offering them at a much lower price. What I didn’t realise, not understanding the structure of ISBNs (and this company didn’t say anything on their website to help me understand this) was that, of course, they would be identified as the publisher of the book. So these novels, which I wrote, printed, and bound by myself were credited to “Aardvark Global Publishing”. Yuck.

    The US ISBN agency clarified (rather snarkily), “Essentially what you’ve done is buy a driver’s licence on the street-corner. It’s somebody’s — but not yours!”

    Since then, I’ve published a fourth book and bought a block of ISBNs through the official channel (*cough*MONOPOLY*cough*), so I had lots of ISBNs to spare, and have now submitted these two books for registration with Nielsen Book Data, the UK ISBN agency (that US firm should also not have issued ISBNs for my UK-published titles). Now I’m waiting for Nielsen’s glacial process to accept these books so I can re-issue them under my imprint.

    So my warning is “If it’s cheap, there’s a reason”. It’s a total racket, having to deal with one exclusive company for ISBNs, but it’s still the best — the only — way to go.

    You can find the official ISBN agency for your area here:

    And if you’re designing your own cover, you can generate a print-ready barcode of your ISBN here:


    Sylvia Ricks May 21, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Hi Thanks Just about to make the same mistakes but you have put me back on track will pass on your tips. UK


    Preeti September 4, 2013 at 4:56 am

    thanks a lot… the link was helpful to ISBN agency in India


    Gary Delfino October 21, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    This is my isbn number. I believe that Authorhouse is selling my book and not reporting sales. Is there a way I can trace the activity of my isbn number? isbn-10:1420897098
    Thank You,
    Gary Delfino


    Golem100 March 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    I was thinking, maybe I buy 1000 ISBNs and then sell them for $50 each. Everybody wins. I knew it sounded too simple. Back to the get-rich-quick-scheme drawing board.


    Gwen May 15, 2014 at 12:53 am

    I am so glad I found your articles!

    I have gone through the process of creating my own LLC – publishing company, purchasing the ISBN’s and went to fill in the required information. Like many I am angry and confused over this process!

    If I plan to upload Ebooks to the various sites, Amazon, B&N, Apple, I understand the single ISBN element. What I don’t understand is that they require pricing information! This is complicated because I am not setting the prices, THE Distributors are…so how do I fill in this Mandatory field?

    I am also looking ahead at the Bar Codes needed for future sales within the Brick and Mortar stores, and again if I use the CreateSpace print on demand option or Lulu, THEY determine the pricing structure, not me! Againi, what should I do for this madatory field?

    Confused and this is holding me up…

    Thank you so much for all of your great adivce BTW….


    Joel March 17, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Thanks for your comment and the helpful links. Since I rarely have cause to address books published outside the US, I really appreciate the help for international readers.
    And of course you are completely correct, although I didn’t address it in this article: in most cases you should get your own ISBNs so your book isn’t forever identified with a subsidy press.


    Kyla January 8, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I am going to self publish my book and have signed up with a couple different subsidy publishers. I am young and just trying to publish a book for my senior project, thought a bit of recognition/sales would of course be fantastic.

    I got a free ISBN from Lulu, createspace, and am also considering publishing with outskirtspress. All these companies say you can publish with multiple companies at once because YOU own your work, they don’t. So if each has a different ISBN but it’s the same book, only with a different cover or typeset, that doesn’t matter right?


    Joel Friedlander January 9, 2011 at 8:55 pm

    Kyla, I’m not sure what you hope to gain by using lots of different printers, it seems to me like it will end up costing you more and confusing people who want to order the book. For instance, if Amazon wants a copy of your book, who will they order it from?


    Kyla January 10, 2011 at 7:37 am

    I’ve decided not to go with outskirts press for my first time publishing- and I’m using the barebones Lulu service which is free, so it will only be sold in the Lulu Marketplace and not Amazon; and createspace, which is affiliated with Amazon [if there was confusion I'd think they would order from this company first] will be pretty cheap as I’m not ordering a lot of services from them.
    Also, on Amazon if a book has more than one edition I have seen them listed separately so I don’t see that being a problem. I’ve seen plenty of books released once under one publisher and later under another, with completely different covers. It’s confusing but I don’t see how with the same title and back cover text it could be a major problem. I just wanted to make sure that it was okay to have the same book under different ISBNs; small inconveniences are fine by me, and I’m saving money by not purchasing an ISBN when I can get it free. I figured publishing with more than one company means more recognition, at least minutely.


    Sofie Bird March 21, 2012 at 2:07 am

    I’m not sure about Lulu, but I’m fairly certain CreateSpace’s ISBN isn’t an actual ISBN; it’s a number for internal use within CreateSpace, but the book itself never gets registered (if someone takes down a book with a createspace ISBN, the number goes back into the pool to be reused (that’s why they say you can’t use the free ISBN anywhere else).

    For lulu: If it’s only being sold in the lulu marketplace, then I’d wager that’s the same deal there – not an actual ISBN, just an ISBN-like tracking number that never actually gets registered anywhere.

    So in terms of your book having “multiple” ISBNs, it doesn’t matter, because the book won’t – it’s not being registered anywhere, and in fact it doesn’t have an ISBN at all. Ingram and bookstores will never hear of it, and you can’t use those “ISBN”s anywhere, because they’re just magic numbers made up by lulu and createspace.

    Darby Mitchell August 28, 2013 at 9:05 am

    How do I get my own ISBN, and how does anyone know whether I’m self-published? ?


    Janey July 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm


    I am getting ready to print my first 1,000 books (brave, no?) and I have a question regarding the next 1,000 books I will have printed in the future…optimistic, no? Will the second 1,000 books need a new ISBN number? I’m new at this I am sure you can tell. Your posts are excellent and extremely helpful!


    Joel Friedlander July 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Janey, sorry I missed your message.

    No, you won’t need a new ISBN for another printing. It’s only if you change enough of the book to make it a new edition that you would need a new ISBN. Hope that helps, and don’t hesitate to leave a question here if you have one. I will repond more quickly. Thanks for visiting.


    patricia rogers November 28, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    I intend to publish a book (not altered in any way) that was previously printed/published by a now defunct company. Do I need a new ISBN?


    Joel Friedlander November 29, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Hi Patricia,

    Yes, you’ll need a new ISBN since the old one belongs to the defunct company or its successors, and yours will be a new edition.


    Dani August 10, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    An online group is having a debate about blocks of ISBNs owned by several member authors who are also self-publishers – and whether they can sell just one unused number to another author. Some say this is forbidden – I say it’s perfectly legal except as you stated, the “publisher” would appear as the buyer of the ISBN block. Can you elaborate? Thanks!


    Joel Friedlander August 10, 2010 at 8:26 pm


    You should check the website of Bowker, the U.S. ISBN Agency. Bowker specifically does not allow the sale of ISBNs from an ISBN owner to other parties, and it’s probably a pretty bad idea. If Bowker decided you were out of compliance with the agreement under which they license you to use the ISBN, they could conceivably revoke them. Is it worth that? And having someone else identified as the publisher, erroneously? Bowker has licensed a few companies to sell individual ISBNs and I believe you can get them for $99 for a single identifier. That would be my suggestion.


    Charles Barnard August 20, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Technically, the answer to:
    “If I get an ISBN, does that mean my book is copyrighted?”
    Is correct…but misleading.

    Under US copyright law, the mere act of creation establishes copyright-no other action is required.

    Filing with the Copyright Office is completely optional.

    But practically, filing makes protecting your rights much easier, since it established with a branch of the Government, which makes it more difficult to establish that someone else created the work earlier…but not impossible.

    Copyright has also been protected by notarized copies of the work and by several other means, though none of them are easy.


    Ed Eubanks September 9, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    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 assigining a separate ISBN to each and every edition is under review. Check back for more info

    Hi Joe, thanks for addressing this question, if briefly.

    Any thoughts on this in follow-up? The micro-press I work with (Doulos Resources) is entering more heavily into the eBook arena, and I was just wondering about this question earlier this evening. We’re planning a release later this fall via print, eBook, and PDF. Will we need 2 ISBNs or 3, I wondered?

    “Who would know the answer?” immediately came to mind— and The Book Designer was my first thought. If you have any opinion, I’d appreciate it.


    Joel Friedlander September 9, 2010 at 10:08 pm


    Right now the recommendation is to use 1 ISBN for print, and 1 for all electronic editions. However, this is still an unsettled area and is under study by Bowker and others. I think it’s a good guideline since it clearly indicates two different editions, without having to assign and track up to 9 ISBNs for every book.

    Hope that helps, and thanks for stopping by.


    Ed Eubanks September 13, 2010 at 6:28 pm

    Hi Joel, thanks for the helpful response. (And I just noticed my typo in the first comment, leaving the “l” off your name— how tactless! Sorry about that.)

    That’s the convention I plan/planned to go with. Thank you for the confirmation.

    I appreciate your blog and website very much!


    Saul Bottcher June 20, 2013 at 8:15 am

    Here’s the official word on e-book formats as of 20 June 2013:

    “Different formats of an electronic or digital publication are regarded as different editions and therefore need different ISBNs in each instance when they are made separately available.”

    So if, for example, you sell an EPUB file and a PDF file separately, they should each have their own ISBN.

    (This is logical when you consider that someone might want to search for the specific edition of your book that will work on their e-reading device.)


    LittleRed October 25, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    I was just about to press the ‘BUY’, button on the isbn-us site, when i thought i’d have another check, just to be sure i was doing the right thing!
    I’m in the Uk and am not happy about having to shell out over 100 pounds for 10 ISBN’s when i will only ever print 1 book. So i was delighted to see the $55 offer on isbn-us, for 1 isbn and a barcode. However, i need to know is this legal! Can i buy an ISBN in the US and use it in the UK?


    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Little Red, the ISBNs sold by Bowker and its agents like ISBN-US (Bar Code Graphics) are for use in the US only. There is a different ISBN for UK, which is operated by Nielsen (Nielsen Book. Hope that helps.

    (The $55 ISBN isn’t a great solution anyway. It will not identify your publishing company as the book’s publisher.)


    LittleRed October 27, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for that Joel. I was looking for a cheaper option than a block of 10 numbers! My book has cost me a small fortune so far!! I don’t suppose there are any other companies that sell single ISBN’s in the UK. It seems like such a waste that will have 9 unused numbers.


    James Byrd February 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Nice post, Joel. Good info. Just a couple of things to add:

    1. Regarding Books in Print: When you assign an ISBN to a particular title through the interface, you can (and should) set up the corresponding cover image and metadata. Conveniently, that information automatically flows into BIP. [I specifically asked Bowker about that when I was researching my ISBN course on our site.]

    2. Regarding different ISBN for print vs digital: Keep in mind that the ISBN is like a part number. You need it to be unique enough to identify the specific product your customer wants to buy or your retailer wants to order. For that reason, not only do you need separate ISBN’s for your print book and your e-book, but you need a separate one for every FORMAT of your e-book (Kindle, EPUB, etc). Otherwise, there would be no way to differentiate them at ordering time.

    For now, Kindle does not require an ISBN because only Amazon sells Kindle e-books and they assign their own ASIN. But Amazon recommends that you assign one anyway. If Amazon ever licenses the Kindle format to third parties, an ISBN will be required.


    Joel Friedlander February 22, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Thanks for the useful information, James. The disputes over ISBNs for ebooks don’t look like they’ve been settled yet, but I think your approach is the safest one for most self-publishers to follow. Just another reason to buy as many ISBNs as you can afford, since they are much less expensive in volume.


    Jolene de Swardt October 22, 2013 at 4:36 am

    Hi Joel. My books done Isbn the works I only have one problem how can they count the cash in hand books sold eg… book fairs? How can I register them? I have asked Bowker but have not gotten anywhere. Sorry Im very new to this :) Have a great day!


    Joel Friedlander October 22, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Jolene, Bowker does not track the sales of your book, they just issue the ISBNs.


    James Byrd February 22, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Talk about unsettled! Bowker didn’t even list EPUB as a format until fairly recently. I tried to get an ISBN for the EPUB version of our book Funds to the Rescue so I could submit it to the Smashwords Premium Catalog, but EPUB wasn’t listed. I told Mark Coker about it, and one of the guys on his team (who has contacts inside Bowker) made it happen.

    BTW, we’ve only published 10 books so far, but when we ran out of our first block of 10, we bought a block of 1,000 (only $1 each that way). We should be set for a while no matter what happens.


    Joel Friedlander February 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    I don’t know, James, Susan could take that as a challenge.

    I got my 100 back when they didn’t charge you. You had to pay a flat fee of $35 and the nice ladies in New Jersey would mail you an envelope with green-bar computer paper, that was your official “ISBN Log.”


    Ron April 12, 2011 at 6:31 am

    Can the same ISBN be used in the UK and USA or do you require seperate ISBN for each country.


    James Byrd April 12, 2011 at 11:29 am

    Ron: A book only needs one ISBN, but the ISBN you use must be issued by the country that publishes the book. If you are a US author publishing here, you can get your ISBN from Bowker and that’s the only ISBN you’ll need, regardless of where your book is sold. If you are a UK author, you’ll need to get your ISBN from the UK issuing authority, but again, if you then sell the book in the US, you don’t need another ISBN.

    You can see this rule in action if you upload your books to Lightning Source. You assign a single ISBN to your book when you submit the title, and Lightning Source distributes the book in both the US and the UK.


    Ron April 13, 2011 at 5:50 am

    OK Thanks James


    Ressa May 23, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    OK, so if I go with self-pub: I’ll need a different ISBN # for EACH format?? As well as a different one for any printed books?? And as long as there are no substantial changes in the content, that original ISBN # will always be ‘fine’ for the book/format it was purchased for??

    Obviously, I’d like to self-pub, and have the ability to sell in print, PDF downloads, and the various e-book formats. I have a trilogy – which I’ll need separate ISBN #’s for? I also have a new story line which I expect may turn into a series, more than three, I hope – which I’ll also need separate ISBN #’s for, per format, etc??

    Do I have this correct? And if I were to purchase a ‘block’ of ISBN #’s, I am the one who applies one of them to each book/format?

    Sorry if this is confusing, imagine how it looks inside my own head! *laughs*

    Thanks in advance to anyone brave enough to tackle this one… I appreciate all the help I can get! :D


    James Byrd May 23, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Ressa!

    The answer on ISBN’s is that it all comes down to how the books will be sold. You can sell the PDF versions of your books on your own web site without an ISBN. You can sell a Kindle version of your book through without an ISBN because they assign their own number.

    The time you need an ISBN is when your book will be sold to booksellers through any kind of distribution channel. For example, if you want to put your book into the Smashwords Premium Catalog, you have to get an ISBN for the EPUB version that they will distribute to Apple and Barnes & Noble. If you load your book up into Lightning Source for paperback POD and want to have it distributed though the Ingram catalog, you’ll need a separate ISBN for that version.

    The ISBN is essentially a unique, industry-wide, product number. If I’m a bookseller and I want to order the EPUB version of your book, I need a unique number to identify it. That’s the only way to ensure I don’t accidentally get some other format.

    And yes, you also need a separate ISBN for each book, for the same reason. If I want to order the second book of your trilogy in paperback format, I need a unique number to make sure I get the right book in the right format.

    In today’s market, a single book can easily need 3 ISBNs: One for the paperback version, one for EPUB, and one for MobiPocket/Kindle (Amazon does recommend you assign one). Those are just the basics. If you want retailers to be able to order your PDF version, you’ll need an ISBN for that as well.

    You also asked about assigning ISBNs. When you buy a block of ISBNs, all you are really doing is “reserving them” for future use. When you are ready to assign an ISBN, you go back to, select an ISBN, and enter the information about the book you want to assign it to. The book information flows into the Books in Print database, which is the master book catalog for U.S. book titles.

    I hope this helps clear things up a bit.


    Ressa May 23, 2011 at 6:42 pm


    Thank you! Very clear & wonderful advice. One more question: Do I have to have an actual author/book-dedicated website from which to sell a PDF copy of my books? Or can it be any other form of an online media platform?

    I really appreciate your advice & time!

    Thanx again~


    James Byrd May 24, 2011 at 7:17 am

    You’re welcome, Ressa.

    Regarding a web site, you definitely should at least have an author web site. Having a separate site for each book is optional, but also recommended. Your author web site is the hub of all your online book marketing activities. You need a consistent place to send people who have questions about you or your work. You can make your web site from a blog, or at least have a blog attached to the site so you can keep it fresh with regular new content. Search engines love that.

    As for how you sell your PDF ebooks, the choices are many and varied. You could just start with a PayPal button on your web site and email the book to the buyer when you get an order. You can also move up to an online shopping cart of some variety that supports file downloads for totally automated sales. The hosting company who hosts your web site will probably have ecommerce options you can look into, but they’ll cost you extra. Some blogs also have “plug-ins” you can use.

    When you are looking at online download options, the main thing is to make sure your files are protected from direct access. If you can type the location of your book into a browser URL and bring it up, your file is not protected. It should only be accessible through the ecommerce software after a payment has been made.

    You are at an exciting time in your publishing career. Keep it simple at first and enjoy the process.

    Best of luck!


    Ressa May 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Thanks again, James!

    You’re awesome & very friendly :D

    It is an exciting time. Although I’m growing a bit impatient, *laughs*, I know that’s pretty much a useless emotion in the ‘biz’… I finished my 1st book months ago & have been weighting out all options since.

    We own/run a commercial painting company which has served us very well for almost 20 years. However, this wonderful economy has all but closed our doors. I know better than to expect an ‘income’ from this, this early anyway, but we just don’t have much of the funds needed for constructing a website and such. I will get it done somehow, I’m nothing if not relentless…

    I actually started another book recently, and now I’m thinking about trying to get it out there before my first one. It’s edgy, fun, just more exciting in general. Ah, the joys of decision making. :D

    Thank you, again! I will try to relax & enjoy more…

    James Byrd May 24, 2011 at 10:16 am

    Thanks, Ressa. Glad I could help.

    Just thought I’d mention that you can get started with most of what you need for free or very little cost. You can set up a site in a few minutes with one of the free blog tools (,, etc.) Setting up a PayPal account is free too.

    I do recommend that you buy a domain name and point it at your blog. Use your own domain name rather than the blog site’s domain (which is often something like “”) for all of your marketing. That way, if you decide to move your site somewhere else later, you won’t have to change all of your links to it, and you won’t lose all of the traffic you’ve generated.

    Jan Hurst August 22, 2013 at 6:58 am

    James and Joel, I’m just coming across this thread two years later (!) and greatly appreciate your advice because you both sound like you know what you’re talking about. I read the ISBN restrictions on the Bowker site, but I still have a question. Bit of background first: I am a consultant who helps writers self-publish their books. I shepherd their books from manuscript to print or e-books, through editing and design. I call my business Author’s Voice Publishing. So my question is, Can I be construed as the publisher, and therefore buy the ISBNs for my authors to label their books? (I don’t sell their books for them.)

    Joel Friedlander May 24, 2011 at 11:34 am

    Great advice, James, thanks so much for filling in, I really appreciate it.


    James Byrd May 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    My pleasure, Joel. When Ressa issued the challenge, “Thanks in advance to anyone brave enough to tackle this one,” I couldn’t resist!


    Ressa May 24, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    James: LMAO! I knew that line would get quick attention. :D

    Joel: I’ve been nosing around on this site and I must say, you (whomever has done it all – maybe several ‘yous’) have done a wonderful job. I’ve found many great answers to several more of my own questions. Thanks again for being here and for all the great – and FREE – advice! You all are amazing!


    Joel Friedlander May 24, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Well, Ressa, glad you got such good help. I write the articles but, as you can see, the end of the article is often the beginning of the discussion, and there are some that have been going on almost 2 years. I love to connect with people who have a passion for books and publishing, whatever form it takes, so it’s nice to have you here as a reader.


    Anna Aizic April 13, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Thanks for great advise! My book goes life in few weeks and your advises are priceless!
    Thanks again James


    Bob June 20, 2011 at 8:43 am

    We have a set of articles on local history published around 1915 for our historical society that someone has copied and gotten an ISBN number for and is now selling them on-line. Any recourse we have to this?


    James Byrd June 20, 2011 at 10:20 am

    If you genuinely wish to pursue legal action of some kind, you should contact an Intellectual Property lawyer right away.

    Given the age of the material, it’s possible the articles are now in the public domain. Here’s a link to the copyright office, which has online information about copyright law. It’s pretty confusing though, so talking to an IP lawyer really is your best bet.


    Joel Friedlander June 20, 2011 at 10:21 am

    Bob, since the articles were published in 1915 it is likely that the copyright has expired. If so, you cannot do anything about the publication that someone else has created, because the material would now be in the public domain. In effect, it belongs to the public, and anyone can publish it.

    However, this only applies to works that have been published, so if you have any unpublished papers, they may still enjoy protection.

    The alternative, of course, is to publish your own version of the material.

    Hope that helps.


    Bob June 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Yes, thanks for the comments. It’s frustrating to find that we are basically being ripped off in that we are a small historical society that sometimes depends on reprints of our published materials for some income. Unfortunately, ethics doesn’t seem to play a part in this.


    James Byrd June 20, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Ethical + Legal + Profitable. That’s the trifecta. However, it’s not unusual for individuals to sacrifice one to improve the other.


    Joel Friedlander June 20, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Bob, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but if the material is in the public domain you are not being ripped off, and the other publisher is doing nothing unethical.

    As a content creator, I’m a proponent of copyright law protection, but there simply is no protection, nor should there be, for works in the public domain.

    I’ve also published public domain material (I wrote about this just the other day: Fact and Fiction on the Copyright Page and there are many publishers who run profitable businesses publishing similar material.


    Bob June 22, 2011 at 2:38 pm

    Thank you for your additional comments and I did take the time to read your “Fact and Fiction” and interestingly or uninterestingly enough I do know who Peter Ouspensky was. In any event, though I do not mean to offend, you will have to forgive me if I have somewhat the same reaction as the literary giant…basically, “It’s our stuff”…and I felt the same way when I found an essay of mine reproduced practically whole cloth from one web site to another without attribution. Attribution used to be required scholarship when I went to school; and then again, it used to be polite to even just ask.


    Joel Friedlander June 22, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    Well, Bob, there’s a huge difference between someone reproducing your content without your permission (attribution is meaningless in this case) because that’s copyright infringement, a federal offense punishable by fines, imprisonment or both.

    Publishing content that’s in the public domain is not impolite, it’s not infringement, and it’s perfectly acceptable in my mind. This is the whole point of the public domain.

    How about Shakespeare? Should we be hunting down his heirs and paying them to reprint his plays? Why not?

    The material in the book I wrote about was not “theirs” any more than it was “mine” since there was no copyright on it. You are standing up for a large company that chose to lie to book buyers about the status of the book.

    Copyright is a set of laws, and having at least a familiarity with those laws is one of the requirements of being a publisher, in my opinion. Thanks for continuing this discussion, because it’s vital for people to understand.


    Ed Eubanks June 22, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    Bob, this is a discussion that I have followed with interest, because the ethics of copyright law are of peculiar intrigue to me.

    By “it’s our stuff” do you mean that the person who wrote it is still living and has complained about the unattributed use of his/her work? If that is the case, there is a legal argument to be made (as Joel has already pointed out); but, if that is the case, surely the author is quite elderly!

    If by “it’s our stuff” you mean (as I would presume) that it belongs to the historical society, I — and any copyright or intellectual property lawyer — would argue that this is, at best, dubious.

    For that to be the case, the arrangement would have had to be a “work for hire” agreement, whereby the original author(s) forfeited all claim of copyright, intellectual property, and even authorship to the historical society. When it comes to that, there is a pretty good argument to be made that “work for hire” agreements are themselves pretty unethical, so your complaints against the ethical nature of the reprinting might fall on deaf ears. And, at any rate, even a “work for hire” work under the 1915 copyright statutes would now have entered the public domain.

    Since then, you may be relieved to know, copyright law has been re-worked so as to allow corporations to legally function like a person in these ways, at least insofar as holding copyrights in perpetuity goes. This is why, for example, Mickey Mouse’s image cannot be used without permission (which you won’t get) or a lawsuit (which you will get). This, too, has its challengers from an ethical perspective, because historically — and you will appreciate this, as a part of a historical society — culture is created for the common good, and not merely for financial gain. Good arguments have been made for looser, not stricter, copyright laws concerning which cultural artifacts move into public domain. (Google “Lawrence Lessig” and/or “Creative Commons” for more on this — Lessig has some great presentations on YouTube concerning the need for more access to cultural works.)

    All of which is simply to add to Joel’s already-adequate answer. But I thought it was worth saying, nevertheless.


    Bob June 22, 2011 at 3:43 pm

    And it was well-worth saying and appreciated! Thanks for your comments on an issue I think I have probably carried on much too long.


    Bob June 22, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Not wanting to belabor the issue, but more like “reacting” in that way, rather than standing up for them. Obviously, theirs was a mis-representation that – you would have thought – should have been beneath them and I by no means meant to defend that. As for Shakespeare – his heirs, if any can be found (I’ll leave that to Ancestry), are missing out on a pile of cash. In a side note, you may be aware of Mark Roesler, who managed to collect for the heirs of dead celebrities. Why not Shakespeare?


    James Byrd June 22, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    Copyright law is complicated, which is why it has been overhauled multiple times in this country. Just look at what happened with the Google Book Settlement (which wasn’t settled). The “orphaned works” issue and “opt-out” issues pretty much tanked the deal. Both related to perceived copyright infringement.

    So, really, I don’t think you belabor the issue. As Joel said, it’s something we all need to understand.

    The truth is that we are fortunate to have copyright protection at all. The reason we do is largely because it was originally thought to protect creativity. If someone else could come along and make a fortune on your work without your permission, you wouldn’t bother creating it in the first place. That premise has been argued against since it was first proposed, and if its opponents had prevailed, there would be no such thing as copyright protection today. EVERYTHING would be public domain (as some folks say it should be).

    So, I’m with Joel. All authors and publishers need to understand their rights and responsibilities with regards to copyright, particularly self-publishers who must take responsibility for their own legal decisions and liability.

    Unfortunately, your situation is particularly complicated. As a content repository, you have works written by multiple authors who may or may not still be living. How your organization came into possession of the material and what it has done to establish legal ownership of that material comes into play. That’s why I suggested you speak with an IP lawyer.

    If the information is indeed in the public domain at this point, you have no recourse, and anyone may legally use the material with a clear conscience.

    As someone else suggested, your best bet is to take advantage of the fact that you have immediate and direct access to this material to create your own publications. Those publications WOULD have copyright protection. In other words “beat them to it.”


    Bob June 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Thanks for that! I really do appreciate all the helpful comments.


    Bob Shear April 13, 2014 at 8:18 am

    I recently came across a copy of The Writings of Thomas Paine (under a different title) on Amazon. This extensively edited collection of Paine’s works was published in 1895 by Moncure Daniel Conway, who spent years in the effort. The new publisher lists himself as Editor, thereby inheriting all of Conway’s Editor’s note without attribution. In my book, that’s unethical.


    Darby Mitchell August 19, 2013 at 8:57 am

    We can’t find the Shakespeare heirs because it hasn’t been established who Shakespeare was. See my book, ‘And thereby hangs a tale’ — The Memoirs of an Arse Poetica.

    This book is the culmination of a 20-year study in the imagery of first Marlowe and then Shakespeare. It’s a fascinating study in biographical mystery, if I do say so myself.


    Carla King August 19, 2011 at 9:32 am

    Great post, Joel. Who would have thought there would be so many questions about such a *simple* acronym ;-) And I have one more…

    Question #21: Should I buy my own ISBN or let (CreateSpace / Lulu / Author House, Smashwords, etc) provide one for me?

    BUY IT YOURSELF! You need to be able to control the data in your Bowker record – to enter keywords so search engines can find your book, and to let Bowker know your book is out of print and updated with a new ISBN number, so customers will never get that horrible “not found” or “out of print” message.


    Joel Friedlander August 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Good one Carla, thanks for adding to the stew.


    Stephany Yarbrough May 1, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Joel,

    First, thank you for this article and the opportunity for dialogue and answers! A little a long the lines of Carla’s question…

    I have self-published a book POD, my own ISBN, and Tate Publishing is now courting me to have them reprint the book and use their own ISBN, however they state in their contract, I will hold the rights to the work. The reason I am considering this is they say they will do the marketing and PR for the book (free) as a traditional publisher would with my receiving 15% royalty. Also, they stated that I could keep selling the original book which is of interest as I get the the total profit rather than a royalty. Would this be advantageous for me? What do they own if they provide the ISBN? My question pertains to their owning the ISBN for a slightly different version, I am thinking there may be something I am not aware of that could backfire. Also, not sure of their reputation. Would it be better to go with Smith Publicity and just pay them for their marketing services when I can pull together the finances? Any assistance with this question and best approach would be very helpful.

    Thank you,


    Joel Friedlander May 1, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Stephany, ISBN is simply a record-keeping device like a UPC you see on grocery items. It confers no rights to your work, but it does indicate who is the publisher. I think you would be far better off working with a publicist and not assigning any of your rights in exchange for vague marketing promises.


    ram rameswaram August 23, 2011 at 12:09 am

    can a publisher seek isbn for a book already published few years ago by the publisher ? kinhly help. reply soon
    yours sincerely


    Joel Friedlander August 23, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    Ram, is the publisher the same one who originally published the book?


    ram rameswaram August 23, 2011 at 12:21 am

    can a publisher seek isbn for a book already published few years ago by the publisher ? kindly help. reply soon .
    yours sincerely


    Ron September 8, 2011 at 5:42 am

    If I self publish my book with a number of publishers do I have to use a seperate ISBN for each publisher or can I use the same ISBN.


    Joel Friedlander September 17, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    Ron, you should use the same ISBN for each edition no matter who prints it. So a softcover version of the book, for instance, can be printed by different printers and, as long as they are pretty much identical, they should all have the same ISBN.


    Steven September 17, 2011 at 4:14 pm

    My grandmother is an author and has ran out of copies of one of her books. She no longer has the original copy that she sent to the printer, nor does she have her old word processing files of the book. All she has is the cover art and art within the pages. She has asked me, on my off time, to duplicate her book page for page in MS Word. She gave me the margins, font size, and line spacing that she used. However, I am having issues getting the text to fall on the page as it does in the book without spending a lot of time manually adjusting text each page. She used a very old version of Word Perfect to write the book the first time, and she also put her headers and footers manually into her copy area rather than using Word Perfect’s headers and footers. We would like to use MS Word’s headers and footers and also, instead of trying to duplicate the book page by page, just let the text fall into the page as MS Word sets them. You stated that an ISBN can be used on minor revisions of the text in a book, but would this be too drastic of a change to re-use the books current ISBN, even though the text itself isn’t being changed?


    Joel Friedlander September 17, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Steven, two things: This will definitely be a new edition, and needs a new ISBN if you plan to sell it in the retail market. If it’s a private publication it needs no ISBN. Also, many specialized book printers offer a service that’s very reasonable by which they will scan an old book and create a PDF that’s used to print new copies (still a new edition). For instance, I had a book scanned and put back into print for under $200.

    Hope that helps.


    Jennifer October 24, 2011 at 3:53 am

    Could anyone answer my question?

    Do I need an isbn if the book is purely for my own personal use?



    Joel Friedlander October 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm

    Jen, no you don’t need an ISBN if you have no plans to sell your book.


    Jennifer October 26, 2011 at 6:39 am

    Thank Joel,

    Now I just need to find a printer who will do small quantities!



    Linda October 26, 2011 at 8:45 am

    You are a wonderful man, I wish I was so brainy.


    Charon November 6, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Hi, I published my book with trafford but their base price was way too high to make any profits for its intended purpose as a fundraiser. I am now doing a second printing myself with a new ISBN number, however I am wondering if I should cancel my current listing with trafford or what I should do so when people search my books title (which will be the same) TRAFFORD’s version doesnt pop up. Any suggestions???

    P.S. You Rock!!!


    noctu November 15, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    Should i purchase my digital file thats around $400 from this self publishing company or should i just use the print ready pdf i have and send to a printer?


    Joel Friedlander November 16, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    You should get the digital files. The PDF will only be of use if you never ever have a change to the book. That’s not likely. The files are part of your capital investment and I would be sure to get them.


    Nora November 26, 2011 at 9:45 am


    I have a question that bothers me…. I am a self-publisher, live in Europe and I intend to publish my books only on-line (via Amazon for exs., as an eBook and Print-on-Demand Book).

    Bowker said that you can buy ISBN only if you are located in the USA. So where can I buy my ISBN?

    ISBN Agency in my country is quite strict and requires some conditions before you assign ISBN. So, you can’t buy package of 10 or more ISBNs whenever you want. First you have to fill their conditions and write the whole book – and send them all headings and subheadings that appear in your book, and whole bibliography (really crazy if you ask me).

    Is it really impossible for non-USA writers to buy ISBNs and publish their book by their conditions? Today, the whole World is one Village. It seems unbelievable to me, in this 21. century, to not having this posibility. I have no intention of publishing my book in my country on my official language (only on english). So, can I also buy ISBNs on Bowker to publish on Amazon, Lulu etc.?

    It’s really important to me, so I really looking forward for your answer.

    All the Best!



    Joel Friedlander December 28, 2011 at 12:44 pm


    There are two ways around the situation.

    1. Set up an address in the U.S. through a mail delivery service and use that address when you buy your ISBNs from Bowker.
    2. Use a company that supplies ISBNs, like CreateSpace. Use their ISBN. I don’t usually recommend this, but it might work great for you.

    Hope that helps.


    Nora December 28, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I don’t quite understand No.1: You mean to e-mail adress (set up USA as my Country in my e-mail preferences, and this e-mail adress using for buy ISBNs on Bowker) or to Home adress (street, town, country)?

    Thank You!


    Joel Friedlander December 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

    Nora, I mean a mail delivery address at a physical location. You need a street address of some kind in the U.S. There are companies (like UPS stores or Mail Boxes Etc) that provide this service.


    Mike King December 4, 2011 at 1:07 am

    I am publishing on Create Space and have their ISBN. Can I publish the same book on Google Books with another isbn?


    Joel Friedlander December 28, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    Yes. You’ll need 1 ISBN for any print edition (like CreateSpace) and 1 ISBN for your ePub version that will sell on Google Books. You can use the same ePub with the same ISBN to sell your book on and other sites, too.


    Adam December 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Quick question regarding ISBN and self-publishing:

    Having purchased a block of 10 ISBN numbers, I decided to burn one as a test, just to get the hang of how it works. After dealing with that ridiculous website for hours – the first hour was wasted because apparently the Bowker or ISBN website only works with Internet Explorer? – I was finally able to get through.

    My question is, as a self-publishing author, who/what do I put down as my publisher? It is a required box (has an asterisk, must be filled), but as I do not have a publisher I did not know what to put.

    Ironically, I filled it with something along the lines of “I don’t have a publisher but there is an asterisk”, just so I could continue and finish the process. Now I get mail about once every two weeks addressed to me, and the address looks something like:

    My Name
    My Address
    My City, State, Zip Code

    Irrelevant of course, but it was hilarious to get different pieces of mail from Bowker and other sources addressed to myself as such.

    Anyways, feel free to help me out here, I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.


    Joel Friedlander December 27, 2011 at 4:10 pm


    That’s actually pretty funny. Bowker assigns ISBNs to publishers, who then assign them to individual titles. They are looking for a name of a publishing company. For instance, I self-publish my own books and I call my publishing company Marin Bookworks. I set this up with the local county clerk here so I can cash checks and do business legally in that name. You’ll have to check with your own local authorities. However, you don’t have to establish a publishing company to use ISBNs. If you’d rather not, just use your own name as Publisher.


    Ashley July 3, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    How did you set up your publishing company? Do you have to file it as as LLC or Incorporated? You mentioned you set it up with your county clerk, how does that work?

    I am exploring my options in publishing my first collection of poems and am unsure about whether to set up some sort of publishing company to facilitate the process and for future publishing of my own work. If it is a larger investment than I can afford right now, I will just wait and publish this collection with an ISBN I just hold under my name as the Publisher. Any advice you can give me regarding this would be fantastic, thank you!


    Joel Friedlander July 3, 2012 at 2:15 pm


    It doesn’t have to cost very much money, it depends on your locality and the kind of company structure you use. Check out this article:

    How to Create, Register and List Your New Publishing Company


    Vikk May 22, 2014 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for the link to your other article. I’d been wondering about a few things and found the info helpful.

    ron.clarke December 28, 2011 at 8:40 am

    how many isbn do i need to have for, 5000 books exactly the same as each other


    Joel Friedlander December 28, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Ron, you only need 1 ISBN for that specific edition. How many copies of the edition there are doesn’t matter.


    san.clares January 11, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Hi! I’m also not a U.S. resident and have been struggling on how to get an ISBN. So I have a couple of questions:

    1. Is it really possible to buy an ISBN from Bowker if I can provide an address in the U.S. ? and will that bee problem-free if I’m self-publishing through
    2. What are your thoughts on self-publishing through with their free lulu-owned ISBN, which is what they offered me if I can’t bring my own ISBN. Are there any reasons why one should avoid using a lulu-owned ISBN? I’ve been searching for reviews in this topic, but haven’t been able to find any clear statements: pros/cons?
    Thanks in advance for any help and/or advice and Happy 2012!


    Barbara Brown February 11, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    I’m ready to print my first book, and plan to buy 10 ISBN numbers for future projects. What about the bar code on future books? Since I’ll already have the ISBN for them, what happens when I need to price them?

    Thanks – hope this ?? makes sense.


    James Byrd February 12, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Hi Barbara. Don’t worry about the barcodes. Buying ISBNs is a separate process from allocating them to a book. When you buy them, you are really just reserving them for future use.

    Later, when you actually assign an ISBN to a book, that is when you get the Bookland EAN barcode for the ISBN and optionally include the price. You are not required to encode the price into the barcode. In fact, the barcode sample that Joel shows at the top of this post has a price of 90000, which means no price has been established.

    For self publishers, there’s no particular reason to assign a price anyway. Leaving it undefined allows you to experiment with price and find the “sweet spot” between price and sales volume for your title.

    Best of luck with your publishing adventures!


    Terri LeClercq December 17, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Uh-oh. Now we have EAN. CreateSpace has also just dropped something like LCCN ? on me. I’m going to go lie down, and when I get up, I’ll see if you can help me with all this jargon. Many advance thanks!


    JLOakley March 8, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Great stuff, Joel and what a great discussion. Always enjoyed your opinion and so pleased I got to talk to you while waiting outside the Seattle Asia Museum for the CS event in December.


    Kathy Messick March 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Hi – I am almost ready to assign my ISBN to Issue 1 & 2 of my 24 page Comic Book Series, CYBER OPTICS. How would I get or where would I find information on the Bookland EAN Barcode?

    If I am understanding correctly, each Issue of the series requires an individual ISBN. Is a separate Barcode needed for each Issue of the series? Is there a link to 20 Questions re Barcodes? Any information will be helpful.

    I am prepping the first Two Issues of the series to be distributed online and want to attempt to get the titles carried in brick & mortar comic shops too – I was thinking of selling them for $1.99 per Issue. Shouldn’t I go ahead and get a Barcode to go along with the ISBN? What is the “official” site for legal Barcodes? Thanks Again! Kathy


    James Byrd March 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Kathy. There are a number of ways to generate the Bookland EAN Barcode, but the easiest thing to do might be to talk to your printer. Many printers can put the barcode on your cover for you if you just give them the ISBN.

    For example, we get our books printed through Lightning Source, and if you use their cover template generator, they automatically insert the barcode you need. In truth, we never use the template they give us for anything other than generating the barcode image! We just copy the image they provide into our own InDesign cover template.

    You can also get a barcode from Bowker. Assuming you bought your ISBN’s directly from Bowker, you should have an account at One of the options they give you is to generate barcodes. It costs money ($25) to go that route, however.

    If you do an Internet search, you’ll find other services that will generate a barcode file for you as well.

    You are correct that each individual issue needs its own ISBN, if you plan to sell the issues individually. However, if they are bound within the same volume and always sold together, you could assign one ISBN to that volume.


    Joel Friedlander March 22, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    FYI for times when I need to purchase a barcode, I use If memory serves, they are about $10. A word of warning, also. You’ll find “free barcode generator” software online, but some of these programs do not create a reliable file. Use one of the suggestions here or in James Byrd’s reply above.


    Barb April 3, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    I’ve followed the comments all the way through, but felt there was still fogginess about “when to assign separate ISBN’s.” It sounds as though I need to assign 3-4 ISBNs for distribution of my one title.

    1 for POD (Lightning Source)
    1 for Smashwords (Do I need this one?)
    1 for Kindle (I’ll upload to mobi instead of using Smashwords for this)
    1 for B& N (I’ll upload to epub myself )

    Did I get it, right?
    This is a super site. Thanks for your help.


    James Byrd April 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Hi Barb. Here’s what we do:

    * Assign 1 ISBN to the paperback edition
    * Assign 1 ISBN to the EPUB edition
    * Assign 1 ISBN to the hardback edition (if we publish one)

    If you upload directly to Amazon, you do not need an ISBN for the MobiPocket edition. Amazon assigns their own ASIN, which is identifier enough.

    B&N sells an EPUB edition of your book, so you can use your EPUB ISBN there. You can also use your EPUB ISBN with Smashwords because their Premium Catalog distributes an EPUB edition.

    If you do publish through Smashwords, be sure to turn off distribution to B&N and Amazon, since you are uploading a superior quality file to those vendors directly. The last time I checked, Amazon distribution is still not fully functional anyway.

    Basically, you need 1 ISBN per format that goes into commercial distribution. In your case, only LSI and Smashwords are technically “distributing” your book, so paperback and EPUB are the only formats that need an ISBN. With Amazon, you are uploading your book directly to the retailer, not putting it into distribution, which is why you don’t need an ISBN for the MobiPocket version. If Amazon ever gets into the business of *distributing* ebooks, they may very well start requiring an ISBN.


    Jon Breakfield May 12, 2012 at 2:35 pm

    Thank you for all the great info.
    Quick question regarding ISBNs…can they cross the pond?
    I’m based in the U.S. and plan to self-publish a paperback through CreateSpace using my own ISBN from Bowker but also want to do a ‘print on demand’ (same edition) in the U.K. as I spend a bit of time over there too.
    Will my ISBN from Bowker be valid for selling the same title/edition in the U.K.? Am hoping to avoid having to buy another batch through Nielsen.
    Thank you in advance.


    Joel Friedlander May 16, 2012 at 10:40 am


    I don’t know how CreateSpace handles these sales, so I would inquire with them. The ISBN is issued by the country in which the publisher is based, so your US ISBN should be fine for any printing of the same book anywhere. At Lightning Source, you have to sign a separate contract for distribution in the UK, but the books are identical and use the same ISBN as the US edition.

    Hope that helps.


    Nick June 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Wow, I have heard so much conflicting information! I am looking at buying 2 ISBNs for the print and e-book versions of my book. I almost would prefer NOT to be listed as publisher. I am selling this book to schools and don’t want to look like a one man show.

    Is there any other disadvantage to buying a $10 isbn from a resale company? Does it really affect your search engine results to that much extent (I do tons of SEO)? Any way orders, cash, etc. will end up in the publishers hands instead of mine? Thanks so much! I’m ready to spend the $250, but not if it’s just so my name is the publisher.


    Joel Friedlander July 6, 2012 at 10:28 am

    Nick, if you plan on continuing to publish your own books, go ahead and buy the 10 ISBNs. You can list yourself however you like, and Bowker’s database is not as dominant as it once was, since many retailers rely on other sources for title information now. If you are publishing more as a hobby or to test the waters, save the money. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a $10 ISBN because those are being sold against the policy of Bowker, but many POD companies, like CreateSpace, will give you an ISBN for nothing.


    Prakash S. Parienkar June 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    We have publshed the book in the year 2010 without ISBN. Now we are reprinting the same. can we allot the ISBN to this book? please guid.


    Joel Friedlander July 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Prakash, no problem, just assign the ISBN to the new edition.


    Cindy Stradling July 6, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Question: Can I have more than one ISBN number for the same book. I am in the process of writing a book with several authors and we would like to be able to sell individually. Is it possible to have say a version code or multiple ISBN numbers for the same book.


    Joel Friedlander July 6, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    No, I do not recommend it. There’s only one publisher, so there should only be one ISBN. You can all sell the book, but you’ll need a different method of tracking sales, or you can just agree to equally divide all net proceeds from the book.


    Monica July 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm

    Hello, I have read this entire loop fromthe article all the way through and this has been what I have been looking for since I decided to write a book, some place where beginners can ask questions of experieniced authors in the self publishing relm.
    My question is:
    How do the bar codes work? I saw on the website you guys suggested 1-25 one price and so on. Does that mean you need a bar code for each book? So if I printed 500 copies I would need to purchase 500 bar codes? I know this is a crazy question but I rather ask now then be shocked when it’s time to gather all the money I need to fund this project.
    Second question:
    If I already started the process of gettting a business name and an EIN for the government and a business bank account as a sole proprietorship but I stated the type of business would be a public speaking business. I did that because I wasn’t sure how to name it and I figured I would get speaking opportunities as a result of the book sales eventually. Before I really launch this business should I change anything?


    Joel Friedlander July 15, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Hi Monica,

    The barcode is simply a scannable version of your ISBN. You can include the price in the barcode but you don’t have to. Since it represents the book’s ISBN, you only need one barcode. The discounts mentioned are wholesale discounts, so they have no bearing on the barcode or ISBN, they are unrelated.

    You shouldn’t have any problem adding other business activities to your business, since many authors are also speakers and a lot of other things as well. It doesn’t sound like you need to change anything.


    Monica Starks July 15, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Thank you Joel!
    This information here is so helpful!!!!!


    Darren Thomas Weldon July 15, 2012 at 7:17 am

    Thank Youtube very much for providing this información. It clarifies all my doubts.


    Paul Bishop July 17, 2012 at 11:54 am

    I pray this note finds you each doing well.

    I’ve been assigned a task of “cleaning up” some mistakes in our record keeping for ISBN numbers. It looks like from reading this article (which has been enormously helpful btw) that once you have a ISBN number assigned to a book you are stuck. I know how to get the numbers now. How do you go about assigning the number to a particular book?

    thanks so much.

    Prayers & Blessings!



    Joel Friedlander September 5, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Hi Paul,

    As the publisher, you simply assign the number yourself. Then you publish the book with the ISBN you’ve assigned to it. Put it on the copyright page and it will also be used to generate the barcode on the back cover of your book. When you list the book with retailers or distributors, it will be identified by the ISBN you have assigned, and you should also have an account with Bowker at where you can enter information about the book under its assigned ISBN.


    ajit September 5, 2012 at 8:16 am

    How much time it takes to activate/update ISBN after book publication?


    Joel Friedlander September 5, 2012 at 10:08 am

    ajit, there is no “activation.” Once you have your ISBN you simply use it as I’ve described to Paul, just above, and you are good to go.


    Amy September 20, 2012 at 6:08 am

    Hi! quick question. Taking a look at my options. I self published through Xulon Press a few years back and am thinking I may want to publish through createspace or maybe even send it in to an actual publisher to pick it up. I do have an ISBN from when I published with Xulon. From what I understand, since I only made grammatical changes I can still use the ISBN I paid for in my package with Xulon correct? With either createspace or whichever publisher I may end up going to. (I am tossing around the idea, because once I publish through a publisher I lose my rights of distribution through other platforms.)
    Thank you for your time :)


    Joel Friedlander September 20, 2012 at 10:31 am


    I don’t know how Xulon handles their ISBNs or what your contract says, but most of these “self-publishing” companies buy ISBNs in bulk to give/resell to their customers. The ISBN will undoubtedly show Xulon as the “publisher of record” for your book. Small grammatical changes will not of themselves create a new edition which would require a new ISBN, but I think it’s likely you will be bettter off acquiring your own ISBNs direcly from Bowker to avoid this kind of confusion in the future.


    suleiman September 21, 2012 at 5:12 am

    my book had no isbn,still i do not have the fund/money to purchase that services,could you help me so that my book could be change from e book to book to meet the marketing?
    i will be happy if you will keep me in touch to someone whom could help me for isbn and reach to marketing.Thank you


    Dave Snider September 21, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I know this article is kinda old, but I just discovered it. I’ve written my first novel and have decided I’d like to publish it myself. How do I establish myself as a publisher so I can get my ISBN’s?
    I suppose I should set up a website as well. Before that I need a name for my, as yet, non-existent publishing co. This sounds like it’s designed to get more complicated as the day wears on!


    Joel Friedlander September 24, 2012 at 11:26 am
    Pastor Bridgette September 24, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I was searching for isbn numbers and I came across $55 for one. Publisher services out of chicago, ill 1800.662.0703 ext 240 are they any good.


    Pastor Bridgette September 26, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Ok. I just answered my own question. Get the isbn numbers from bowker per $125 so that why I will be listed as publisher and the go to person to get more books. Otherwise, the name of the company that I received the isbn number from will have their name on it. Thanks


    Teo September 28, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    can one publish a book that has the same ISBN, the same title, but multiple cover designs?


    JACK October 2, 2012 at 12:04 pm



    Joel Friedlander October 2, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Hi Jack,

    Check this article for info: How to Reconstruct Old ISBNs for Use Today


    Ressa Empbra October 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Hey guys,

    It’s been a while, but then, you knew I’d be back! :D Okay, I’ve finally published my e-book, and the release went pretty well. Now I’m trying to get my printed version finalized, as I’ve had several people show interest in buying one. I bought the 10 pack of ISBNs from, then I assigned it to my book. This was back when I was working on CreateSpace, just before I ‘thought’ doing the e-book version would be faster and easier. So, the e-book is out and when I tried to apply an ISBN to it in KDP, it wouldn’t let me. Apparently the ‘optional’ part of using your own is untrue; Amazon assigns you an ASBN, period, and you don’t need to waste one of your ISBNs. When I went back to my Bowker account, I have all the details correct, however, when I try to assign the ISBN to my printed version on CreateSpace, I get the ‘invalid ISBN’ message. Any thoughts on how to work this out? Besides having to contact each site and go through who-knows-how-long of back and forth emails…

    Thanks in advance.



    Joel Friedlander October 4, 2012 at 11:06 am


    The only reason I can think of that you would get an “invalid ISBN” message is that you might have entered it incorrectly. If the problem persists I suggest you contact support at CreateSpace to find out what the problem is.


    Dr Gayatri Shenoy October 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Hello Joel, hello James.

    I have been reading the posts here and I must say that you guys are doing a lot of admirable work. I have written and printed 1000 copies of my debut book recently and have published it (in my husband’s name). I am now making it ready for the international market. I have a few questions.
    1. I live in India and I know that ISBN is country specific, so can I buy my ISBN directly from at the Bowker site or do I have to take it through specifying my nationality? I think that buying the 10 ISBN is best for me for I wish to make different soft copy formats for Kindle, Amazon, pdf etc which I gather will need different ISBN’s.
    2. I wish to buy the barcode too. The problem is that I have already printed my books and do not wish to strip its jacket now and make a new one with the printed ISBN and barcode. So my question is can I make a sticker of the ISBN and barcode and stick it on the back cover of my book jacket? Is that OK?
    I will be making a copyright through the Indian government website for copyrighting books.
    I will really appreciate your expert opinion. Waiting eagerly and thanks in advance.



    Sunita October 28, 2012 at 7:49 am

    Hi Gayatri
    I am in the same boat – I have written to ISBN agency months ago and followed up and still don’t have ISBN so thinking of getting US ISBN under my sisters name who lives in US
    Did you get any response to this
    What have to done now


    Dr Gayatri Shenoy December 1, 2012 at 5:06 am

    Dear Sunita,
    I wrote and posted my request to the Indian ISBN agency in New Delhi, since I did not get any response to my email from them. Again no reply, I hope they have not disappeared into thin air.
    I tried calling them but it always seems to go into the wrong hands. My last hope I suppose is to go there personally. Whew!!!!!! Will the International ISBN agency please take note and come up with some alternatives for us guys in India.


    Sunita December 1, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Hi again
    After 7 weeks I finally got through and phoned and phoned and phoned
    Then after many calls discussions and all sorts finally got an ISBN (which had an error in the title) – took a total of nearly 11 weeks.
    Suggest you go there – its a total nightmare
    It would have been better if there were no agency in this country and we were free to pay for an ISBN abroad.
    Good luck – suggest you go there !


    Joel Friedlander December 14, 2012 at 11:12 am


    Stickers are very commonly used for this purpose, and companies like will sell you a barcode and also stickers to put on the jackets.


    Enric October 15, 2012 at 4:17 am

    Hi to everyone,

    Thanks for the interesting comments in this threat.

    I’m a newbie at this POD world and I am about to submit my first book to Lulu and CreateSpace (Amazon) bookstores. I’ve been trying to inform myself about the process to do so and this is so far what I seem to have understood:

    Given I haven’t purchased (nor want to) my own ISBN, each submission will be assigned one of their free ISBNs -a different one for each publisher that is. So in the end I will have the same book (same title, same author, same cover) in two different online bookstores with two different ISBNs. Right?

    Furthermore, it seems I could also opt for Lulu to include my title into Amazon as well via their extendedreach service (which is free), hence I would end up having my title in Lulu’s bookstore and twice at Amazon, one with Lulu as the publisher (and their free assigned ISBN) and another one with Amazon as the publisher (ditto). Correct?

    Now here it comes my dilemma: is this the right course of action for me?. Since being in Amazon is my goal (Lulu’s bookstore is a plus), should I stick to CreateSpace (Amazon) and forget about Lulu’s?, does the above make any sense to you? what’s your advice?

    Note: not necessarily looking to be listed in other bookstores but if I wanted to I imagine it’d suffice if I purchased one of the above mentioned POD’s so-called extended services (25$ for CreateSpace, 75$ for Lulu) in order to be distributed in other bookstores (B&N, brick and mortar, etc.). Yes?


    Sheila November 30, 2012 at 5:09 pm


    I have no answers for you but you brought up some good questions so if you find answers elsewhere, please keep us up to date.


    Joel Friedlander December 14, 2012 at 11:10 am

    Enri, your best option is to stick with CreateSpace as the supplier for Amazon, and don’t have the same book twice with 2 different ISBNs in the same store.


    Sheila November 30, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Though this is a great little article, upon reading it it sounds to me like the company that sells ISBNs is quite similiar to the “Federal” Reserve Bank. The familiarity being the Fed really is not federal and is just a private company that was given power to do things that should not be in the hands of a private company. I wonder, if you delved into the history of ISBNs if it all comes down to someone coming up with something that they were able to convince writers, publishers, and places like Amazon are really needed and it’s not needed at all. It sounds like the main purpose of ISBNs is to make the life of librarians, bookstores, etc, easier not unlike the RFID tag. This company’s just found a better way to sell it.


    Joel Friedlander December 14, 2012 at 11:09 am


    The history of ISBN is quite well documented. The code was developed in response to a real need on the part of retailers and publishers to reliably identify specific books and editions, and it has been very successful although the new disruptive technologies are taking their toll and some kind of modernization is going to be needed at some point. When the international agreement was created it specified that there be only one source in each country for ISBNs, which makes sense. In many countries that source is the government itself, and those countries typically supply the ISBNs for free. In the U.S. the agency is run solely by Bowker, a privately-held company, which has lead to some of the repercussions you allude to.


    Audoin December 7, 2012 at 2:53 am


    When you buy multiple isbn with Bowker. Do you have to fill information for each isbn on Bowker website. In my case, i started this year to sell ebooks on Amazon, thank to my small benefit, i bought today isbns, to sell them on Ibooktore…



    Victor December 11, 2012 at 3:15 am

    hello, how dos it work? for example or ,or amazon .ca -so diffrent countries ,what are the rules for isbn?
    to distribute viva amazon ?


    Jennifer December 14, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I’m getting ready to publish my first book and I have two questions after reading your article and the discussions that followed:

    (1) One person asked about getting his digital files: I’m using a vendor to do the eBook conversion of my manuscript for Kindle, BookNook, Sony Reader, etc. So when he converts my manuscript and cover art, that will make one digital file and I should get that?

    (2) And, just to be clear, I will need a separate ISBN for the Kindle format, the BookNook format, the Apple iBooks format, correct? And, if that is correct, when I list the ISBN on the copyright page, would I list it as: Kindle ISBN:0000000000000?

    Thanks for your expertise!


    Joel Friedlander December 14, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Hi Jennifer,

    1. An ebook is delivered as a ZIP file containing several files within it including the text and the cover file. Most people download ebooks from the retailer who also supplied the hardware, so Kindle owners download ebooks from the Kindle store, etc. If you need to send an ebook to someone, just send them the right ZIP file that will be supplied by your converter.

    2. You will need only 1 ISBN. The converter will create 2 ebook files, 1 for Amazon’s Kindle and another in the epub format, which will work on all the other ereaders. Since Amazon assigns its own number (ASIN) and doesn’t require an ISBN, you only need one for the epub version.


    Jennifer December 14, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Thank you so much, Joel, for providing such a succinct, specific response. You just made eveything visually crystal-clear for me. I appreciate that more than you’ll ever know. I’m definitely subscribing to your site to keep up with your wonderful articles/discussions. Again…thanks!


    BH January 9, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Hi, Jeniifer:
    I am wondering whether you are happy with the company who converted your file into different format. If you do, can you please tell me the price tag for this service?


    Jennifer December 19, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    Joel, I participate in a group called “BiblioCrunch” and they posted an interview with a woman at Bowker that might shed some light on this subject. Here’s the link:


    Tee December 24, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Hello, I am also new at this book thing. I am choosing not to publish my book at this time, but to self promote it at events (paying to have it printed up at a local printing company; all to save cash). I would love to have it published later when my money is right. Can I leave room for an isbn bar code and have some type of isbn sticker placed on the cover later? Is that even possible? I have seen older books with stickers on the back cover that appeared to be isbn numbers. If I cannot, how do I have my back cover prepared to have an isbn bar code added later?
    Thanks so much!


    Joel Friedlander December 26, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    Hi Tee. Yes, you can leave a space on the cover and order ISBN stickers later if necessary. Firms that provide bar codes also offer stickers, and you might check with

    On the other hand, instead of using a local printer who is unlikely to be experienced at book production, you might want to look for a short run book printer. These companies produce beautiful books at good prices.

    But if money’s short, I suggest you print with a print on demand vendor instead, like CreateSpace or Lulu. You won’t have to invest any money, and you can just order the books you need without having to sink money into inventory. Just a thought.


    Sandy Nathan December 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Hi. At last a person who may be able to answer my question! I’m retitling and changing the covers of my 3 book sci-fi series. I’m doing this because I finally saw the light and realized I needed professional advice about pretty near everything publishing related. That’s what the professional said to do.

    So, we’re in the process of producing new titles and new covers, but the interiors of the books will be exactly the same. Do I need to assign new ISBNS & get LCCNs & PCIPs?

    I’m making the changes to help sales. Though my sales have been lower than I’d like, the three books have gotten thirty+ stellar reviews and have won 7 national awards. I don’t want to change the ISBNs or anything else, because I want the reviews and awards to stay with the books in their new form. If I gave them new numbers, I’d lose my reviews.

    Are there any rules about this? I could probably make the changes and upload the files to Amazon and no one would care or notice, but I’m afraid of problems down the line. I found something on the Library of Congress site – saying you didn’t need a new ISBN for a reprint if it’s really just a reprint of existing material and you note it: 2013 printing (as opposed to Reprinted 2013).

    I’ve not seen anything about cover AND title changes, though I know publishers do it all the time. How do others handle this? Is there a RIGHT way?

    Your help is much appreciated.


    James H. Byrd December 26, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    If you were just changing the cover, you could probably reuse the same ISBN without any problems. (Bowker does recommend a new ISBN if you expect to get customer complaints–see

    The problem is that you are also talking about changing the title. I contacted Bowker about this issue myself once, and this was their response:

    “If you have published your book—printed copies that you have shipped to stores and registered in databases—then you cannot change your title. You must assign a new ISBN.

    If you are working on your book but the book has not shipped anywhere (whether or not it has been printed or digitized), and you have not registered it anywhere else except in our database (not with Amazon, not with the Library of Congress), then you can change your title and use the same ISBN.”

    I know that’s not what you were hoping to hear. Sorry about that.

    Best of luck with your new titles and covers. I hope they help your sales soar!


    Teo December 26, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    I plan to do essentially the same thing what Sandy outlined in her today’s post- change the title and the cover to help sales, leaving 90% of the text as is.

    Should i publish the book under the same ISBN since the inside is really the same?
    And if I do publish the book under new ISBN, would it create confusion for sellers?

    Thanks for any suggestions,


    Saul Bottcher June 20, 2013 at 8:38 am

    If you change the book’s title, you must assign a new ISBN:


    Sandy Nathan December 26, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    Oh, this is so painful. I’ve got a 4.7 or.8 star average review on 30 reviews of the books, plus all those awards and who knows how many tags and Likes. You don’t suppose Amazon would be helpful and put them on the new editions? [That's a joke.]


    James H. Byrd December 26, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    Honestly? I’d give it a shot. Amazon helps authors merge the reviews between editions every day. Granted, it’s usually between the Kindle and paperback editions of the same book, but if you explain what you have done, they may be willing to help you out, particularly if the old edition will be going out of print. They don’t want to lose that valuable customer feedback any more than you do. It’s certainly worth asking about.


    Joel Friedlander December 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Sandy, I agree with James that it’s worth a try. After all, what you’ll be producing are, in effect, second editions of these books, and the reviews should be moved over to the new editions since the text itself did not change. If you explain this to Amazon (and persist a bit) you should be able to get them to move the reviews to the new editions.

    And thanks to James for the citation from Bowker, that’s very helpful.


    Sandy Nathan December 26, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    I think I’ll do that. I just realized that the title and content of the first book won’t change at all. So slipping a new cover on it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s also the one with all the reviews and most of the awards. The second book’s subtitle will change, along with the cover,but, Amazon may help me out on moving reviews. The third book will have both a new cover and title, but it hasn’t won any awards (and hasn’t been entered in any contests) and only has a couple of reviews. Things may not be so bad after all!


    Shane Shelton January 1, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Hello, I’ve read down through this whole string.. best book I’ve read in a long long time! So nice to have stumbled into the answer zone for this whole self pub. world. So, here’s my queries:
    1. Your suggestions for ‘affordable’ book architects that can help arrange the interior design and book construction. It’s not that I can’t find companies out there – but WHO do you trust?!! Your nod one way or another please sir, I fear sending my files to Sweeny Todd and ending up in a meat pie.
    2. Your suggestion for an ‘affordable’ book promotion company. And it could be soemone on Odesk in india or whereever! – if you trust them thats enough for me. Someone who can do all the posting and knows how to stimulate sales and all that other esoteric tencho jumbo I do not comprehend.
    3. When I launch (I have eight books doing ebook only) should I manage Kindle, and B&N, and Apple myself and let Smashwords do the rest? And if so, what about Lightningsource? If Smashwords sends internationally will that mess up the overseas sells if I send to LS with Amazon and BN and Smashwords sending their feelers out over the pond as well?
    Sorry for asking three questions, but when I do this I want to do it clean because i’ve recently read a scary book about new authors who started out and had a horrible time of it. Horror/Romance. Good read. ;)
    So, how should I launch my ship of book dreams Captain? Do tell.


    Bh January 7, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Hi, there:
    Since ISBN in Canada is free and I live in Canada, I will get some of them.
    But I am planning to publish it with CreateSpace in US, am I allowed to use the ISBN that I get from Canada to use it on Amazon eBook?


    SK January 9, 2013 at 7:27 am

    Yes BH. You can use the Canadian ISBN on Amazon or any other US outlet. I have with no issues.


    SK January 9, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Hi there. I have my ebooks on Amazon and Kobo. But I want to use LuLu to distribute them to and iTunes. When I am setting up the books it says that I need a unique ISBN that has been used by another distributor. Does that mean that I need an ISBN just for Lulu even though the ebooks are identical to what is out there already?

    ISBN’s are free here in Canada so I don’t have to pay for one but it just seems confusing.


    BH January 9, 2013 at 11:23 am

    Hi, SK:Why don’t you use Amazon and Kobo to distribute your book directly? Why do you want to use Lulu?


    SK January 9, 2013 at 11:29 am

    Because I want to get them on iTunes and Barnes and Noble as well. You can’t distribute thru those 2 if you don’t have a U.S. address. I would like to reach the largest audience I can for my books.

    Anyway, I found my answer and i did not need new ISBNs – at least Lulu accepted them for now.


    BH January 9, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Hi, SK:
    I heard that you can spend $25 for Amazon for global distribution. Not sure whether it covers iTunes and BN.


    SK January 9, 2013 at 11:46 am

    It doesn’t. Amazon is a different format – mobi. While all the others are ePUB. Amazon does not have access to publish on iTunes or BN. You need to go to an independent distributor like smashwords or lulu or bookbaby.


    BH January 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Hi, SK:
    I wonder how it works. Since you have ebook with Amazon and you will ask Lulu to distribute it (including amazon). So you will get royalty from Amazon for the ebook sold there, and different royalties for the book sold in Amazon through Lulu?
    also, I wonder why you prefer Lulu to Smashword.

    SK January 9, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Lulu doesn’t distribute to Amazon or Kobo. They do to pretty much everyone else probably because of the format.

    I tried Smashword but if you already have your book formatted in epub 3, then you can’t use Smashword. Smashword only allows word docs under 5mb or epub2 as of December. My books were done in epub3 so they can’t help me.


    BH January 9, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Thanks, SK:
    If there is no issue of format, any preference of Lulu or smashword?


    Jennifer January 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    @BH: I found a vendor that I feel very comfortable with to do my eBook conversion. I have not had the conversion yet because I’m waiting for my last comments from an editor (not sure I’ll use her again because not as timely as I was led to believe). But, he has scheduled me for mid-January, but I might have to push it back to the end of month or first of February – he said he would be able to fit me in.

    Okay, I participate in NaNoWriMo each November and one of the winner’s prizes was a one-year FREE membership to I found my vendor there. His name is Donnie Light and he is really laid back and easy to work with. His website is: His pricing was the best I found, and he will upload your book to Amazon, B&N, etc. for a small fee if you don’t want to do it (which I don’t because I don’t have time to read through all the stuff, especially since I work a full-time job and write my fiction in the evenings and weekends). Hope that helps. :-)


    JS March 20, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    I am publishing through Createspace. Createspace offers free ISBN’S. Is it a mistake to get an ISBN from them when using them as your publisher? You can also pay $10 for a custom ISBN and then use your own imprint as the publisher. Is this a better option? Also, for $99 you can can get a custom ISBN – is this the best option? I am very confused. I have not been able to get a handle on the pros and cons of the different ISBN choices, and would appreciate any advise anyone could offer. Thanks!


    Joel Friedlander May 14, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    JS, if you plan to continue publishing more books over the years, I would suggest going to and buying your own ISBNs, at least 10 to get started. If this is your only book, take the free one or the $10 option.


    lily May 8, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    I was wondering about selling my own pdf of a book that I have from my epublisher. Am I allowed to sell my book if there is an ISBN number still on it that the publisher bought?


    Joel Friedlander May 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm


    If you own the books, you can sell them. Unless you signed a publishing agreement that involves licensing the right to sell the book, go for it. The ISBN will probably indicate your epublisher as the publisher of the book, but it only becomes relevant if you’re in a retail environment, not selling direct from your website.


    Lou,Sheng He June 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    Should I print original ISBN in the revised Edition along with the new one?


    Joel Friedlander June 6, 2013 at 12:23 pm

    It’s not necessary, but you could note it on the copyright page if you like.


    Gary Austin June 7, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Gentlemen, there is a lot of great information here and I greatly appreciate your taking the time to help us novices with our self-publishing.

    I have a few questions:

    1.) Can you tell us who you use for a copyeditor?

    Before finding your blog, I was going to publish my 140,000 word, first time fiction novel, with Create Space; using their copyedit service, as well as their I.S.B.N. However, after seeing your blog I thought I should check with you since you’ve been there and done that.

    2.) Should I use my own I.S.B.N. or Create Space’s I.S.B.N.

    I’m concerned because I see that one of the guests on your blog mentioned that the C.S. I.S.B.N. isn’t a true I.S.B.N. and that is why it can’t be used with another publisher. I plan on incorporating my own publishing company, but I had decided to use the C.S. I.S.B.N. because they said that with theirs I can be distributed by Ingram which means I’ll be listed in their catalog, and can be purchased by schools and libraries. However, to be distributed by Ingram myself, my publishing company would need to have at least ten titles.

    3.) If I use my own I.S.B.N. number, how do I go about getting a Library of congress number?

    4.) Which company do you recommend for selfpublishing?

    I see that you use Lighting Source, do you plan on continuing to do so?

    5.) One final question, for now anyway; when I sent in my application, and deposit, to the Library of Congress I listed myself as the author, but now I want to use a pen name. Can I just register the fictitious name with the state, or do I need to re-file, all over again, with the L.O.C.?


    Bajeerao June 8, 2013 at 5:52 am

    I was trying to purchase ISBN from where it says Get your own ISBN number but it doesn’t allow me to click on it, what should I do. However, the article is great and most comments were very helpful in making a decision.


    I. June 10, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Such a helpful article for a confused beginner. I have a couple of questions. 1. Is it correct that I do not need to purchase a barcode because the cover designer will add one for me? 2. When you are the publisher of your book, does that make you a “business” in tax terms? I do want to be the publisher of record for my book, but I’m not trying to open a business. Thanks so much for your help.


    A P PATEL June 13, 2013 at 9:10 am

    I want to know how to distinguish a hard cover book from a soft cover book just by looking at the ISBN.


    Joel Friedlander June 13, 2013 at 10:13 am

    A P, there’s no way to tell what kind of book it is from the ISBN, it could be a hardcover, softcover, or ebook.


    deepak anand June 18, 2013 at 11:40 am

    i am getting ISBN for my book containing 100 poems ; what will be the status if in future,i divide these 100 poems into 3books,each with 30 poems ?


    Joel Friedlander June 18, 2013 at 12:55 pm


    Then you will need 3 additional ISBNs for the 3 new books.


    Kstew July 3, 2013 at 8:09 am

    My book will be published soon, it is currently in the editing stages however I have already purchased my ISBN for my book title but I would like to Change the title. How do I do this? Will I have to purchase a new ISBN or can I keep the one I have since my book is still in the editing process and hasn’t been printed yet?


    Robyn July 21, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I have published 5 books so far. All under createspace isbn’s because I guess I didn’t do my research well. I now have 10 bowker isbn’s and would like to change at least 1 of my current books to a “real” isbn. What is the best way to go about this?

    Would it be possible to unlist, then re-do everything and then list the one with the right isbn?


    Rob Foster July 30, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Part 3 of your ISBN number identifies the publisher. When a publisher purchases additional isbns after the first have been used, does the publisher identifier segment (part 3) remain the same or does Bowker assign a new identifier for the publisher?


    James H. byrd July 31, 2013 at 5:54 am

    You get a different publisher identifier each time you order a block of ISBNs. We own a block of 10 and a block of 1,000, and the publisher identifiers for each block are different. Bowker keeps track of which publisher identifier(s) (aka the “registrant element” of the ISBN) belong to which publisher.


    Jimmie Pasifika August 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I’m a designer, working on a magazine, having issues with placing ISBN Bar-code over an advertisement on the back cover, can I place the ISBN Bar-code some where else say CIP page? is there a rule on this? help.


    Joel Friedlander August 16, 2013 at 5:33 pm


    ISBN is only for books (“International Standard Book Number”). You want the ISSN (for serial publications). Many magazines have this on the front cover, but I would check with someone who knows more about the ISSN.


    Andrea August 19, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    Didn’t know about the Bowker company/service. Thank you, Joel!


    Ronnie August 23, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    When someone writes an article he/she retains the plan of
    a user in his/her brain that how a user can understand it.

    So that’s why this article is amazing. Thanks!


    Allison August 27, 2013 at 10:17 am


    This is an informative and interesting discussion. I am currently in the process of publishing an activity book here in the US and have bought the ISBN and barcode. I, however, would like to change the language to UK English so that others in the Caribbean and UK can utilize it in the school system. Do I need new ISBNs? Your guidance please and thanks in advance.


    Saul Bottcher August 27, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Hi Allison, if you are publishing two different editions simultaneously (US English and UK English), you need two different ISBNs.

    The purpose of the ISBN is to allow booksellers to stock the correct edition (and to allow readers to find and purchase their desired edition), so you would want a seller in the UK to be able to order the UK English edition specifically.


    Allison September 10, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Thanks so much.


    Dawn August 28, 2013 at 8:35 am

    Is it true I need a new ISBN if I change the price of my eBook? or Paperback? What if I want to put my book on sale? What if I want to offer it as a PDF direct download from my site for less than Amazon?

    Thank you~ Dawn


    Saul Bottcher August 28, 2013 at 8:39 am

    Hi Dawn,

    No, you don’t need a new ISBN if you change the price of your book. You can sell the same book at different prices on different websites, or change the price as many times as you like, without getting a new ISBN.

    For a list of when you do and don’t need a new ISBN, see here:



    James H. Byrd August 28, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Saul is correct. You don’t need a new ISBN just for a price change.

    However, when you create a paperback edition, your price is incorporated into the EAN barcode that you put on the back cover. I believe this was originally done for the convenience of book stores so they could scan the price along with the ISBN at checkout.

    You still don’t need a new ISBN for a price change, and if you plan ahead, you don’t necessarily need to change the EAN barcode either (which would necessitate uploading a new cover to your printer). When deciding what price to put on your barcode, I recommend doing one of the following:

    1. Select a list price that represents the max price you will charge for the life of the book. You can always run sales that offer a discount off of list price. In fact, Amazon routinely discounts your book’s sale price regardless of what you set for a list price. The list price on the barcode will just let readers know they are “getting a deal” (assuming they bother to look).

    - or -

    2. Leave the price of your book off the barcode. Putting a price on the EAN barcode is optional. If you choose not to specify a list price, you’ll see “90000″ displayed in the human-readable price portion of the barcode.

    Which option you choose partly depends upon how much control you have over the creation of the barcode. We leave the price off of our barcodes, but if I *had* to include the price, I’d set it to the max list price.

    The only time putting a list price on the EAN barcode (as opposed to leaving it off) might cause problems is if you later charge *more* for the book. There’s nothing to stop you from doing that, but readers might feel like they are getting ripped off.

    I don’t mean to make a big deal about this issue. Realistically, most shoppers probably have no idea that the list price is typically encoded in the EAN barcode. If they are shopping online, they’ll never even see the barcode until they receive the book. Still, if you are going to publish paperbacks, I think it’s good to understand these things.


    Belinda September 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    I am very grateful for all this wonderful information – thank you. I have a question: If I purchase my own ISBN numbers and publish my book through Outskrts, for example, can I also send my manuscript to big publishing companies to be considered as well? Or, do I blow my chances of being consodered by traditional publishers by publishing my book beforehand? Thank you


    Preeti September 4, 2013 at 5:40 am

    thanks found your article very helpful


    Karen September 13, 2013 at 12:56 am

    Hi there. I am starting a novelty publishing company that will sell books only on our website (and via telephone orders).

    (There is a small possibility that order forms for these products will be sold in gift shops, but not the books themselves. These are each unique books customized for the purchaser.)

    Anyway, this being the case, since we are not planning to use any other distributor except for the coupons/gift cards/order forms, do we still need individual ISBNs for our titles?

    Thanks very much for your incredibly helpful site.


    Joel Friedlander September 18, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Hi Karen,

    If the books will never go into retail, or into distribution to retailers, you don’t absolutely need ISBNs.


    Thomas Norwood September 21, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    I don’t know if this will work for people outside Australia (although I don’t see why it wouldn’t), but if you buy your ISBNs through Bowker’s Australian site ( then 1 ISBN costs AU$42 (around US$40) and 10 costs $80. It’s a huge saving and the site works exactly the same as the US one. I’m really not sure why there’s such a huge difference in price, as things in Australia are normally more expensive than the US – but there you go!


    Renee Paule October 4, 2013 at 2:04 am

    Hi … can anyone help with information regarding getting an isbn in France. My book is in English. I found a website but it’s only in French and I can’t understand it well enough.

    After a bit of searching I came across a thread by a woman who said they only issue isbns for books published in French, but I live here.

    Help please?



    den yparxw December 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    I read that when a book been published, the idea is registered automatically to the first publisher… but when a book is considered as published when it’s self published? I don’t even want to sell a copy… I don’t care if anyone changed it and republish it, all i want is to be the first publisher of a text, and to have strong proofs for that… will an ISBN for a finished copy do the job for me?


    Joel Friedlander December 6, 2013 at 10:41 am

    Hi den,

    ISBN has nothing to do with copyright, and there is no one who “registers” ideas. You can file a copyright registration for your book after it has been published, and to find out more, check here:


    Zoey December 6, 2013 at 6:04 am

    If I add an ISBN number to my book, does this mean that my book will automatically appear on sites like Amazon even if I do not want that right now? I am publishing through Lulu. At this time I am only putting my book out for friends and family, but am not sure if I should get an ISBN number or not if I change my mind in the future. In other words, does having an ISBN number mean anyone can pick up for distribution?


    Joel Friedlander December 6, 2013 at 10:39 am

    Hi Zoey,

    No, just putting an ISBN on your book will not automatically put it into distribution, that’s a choice you have to make at Lulu. And if you have no plans to sell your book through retail, you don’t need an ISBN. However, if you think someday you might want to, you can add it to the back cover at any time. Hope that helps.


    Vincent Cornelius December 8, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Do I need an ISBN before my CIP or PCN?


    Joel Friedlander December 9, 2013 at 10:43 am

    You will need an ISBN before you request CIP data, Vincent.


    Vincent Cornelius December 9, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Wow! Thanks Joel. You’re really on top of this social media thing.


    Antonio December 28, 2013 at 3:12 am

    Hi Joel.
    I’m a little bit confused now!
    I am a small Italian publisher. When I sell in Italy there are no problem. I buy Italian ISBN and that’s all.
    Now I’d like to sell my translated books in USA and UK (they will be printed as well in USA and UK) and I don’t know if I need to buy ISBN from Bowker, Nielsen or
    I know ISBN is not a mere number. It identifies a specific language group, but allow my books to arrive at certain catalogs where else would not appear.
    So, having said that I’ll use the Ingramspark service, my questions are:
    What should I buy if I want that my books had two reference market, USA and UK?
    Can I, Italian publisher, buy ISBN abroad even though based in Italy? Does it make sense?

    Please, forgive my English. The question is delicate and It’s complex to express myself better in English. I hope I was clear.


    Sharon January 11, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    my Publisher sold his company to an overseas online book seller, and were suppose to re sell my book in both Ebook and paperback, but for nearly a year now haven’t. My Publisher has tried to contact the buyer, with no success. Do I have any rights as an Author to re sell my book (self Published) or any other means? It does state in the contract that if the Publisher goes bankrupt or the business is liquidated all rights go back to the Author, but in this case I’m not sure if I have a leg to stand on. Just reading though all the other questions, maybe the go will be to make a new addition with a new ISBN.
    Starting all over again would be a shame, but probably the only way I’m going to get my book back into print and for sale again.
    Kind Regards Sharon


    Julie Connor January 19, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Is it possible to change the publisher associated with an ISBN number of a book if the book has not been released or approved for print?


    Kristina Hutch January 21, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Hi, I am in the process of self-publishing a wordless picture book that I’ve illustrated. its a novelty book, so both sides function as the front cover (you read two different points of view and meet in the middle). I am wondering if it is possible to have the ISBN print smaller so it doesn’t distract too much from the design. I am printing with Lightning Source. I know this isn’t something I can resize myself, but are there places that can do this for you? I see that ISBNs come in lots of different shapes and sizes and I want the least obtrusive one for my back (front) cover. Thanks!


    Jeff Bach February 6, 2014 at 10:32 am

    Awesome thread. I think I have a variant that has not been brought up. I have been thinking the epub version of my book does not need an ISBN. One of my goals is to get my ebook picked up in overseas markets. To do this I am using Kobo and Xinxii. Both have sent me notes explaining that some outlets overseas DO require an ISBN for the ebook version of your book. For example, I want/hope my ebook is picked up by Chapters-Indigo, a Canadian etailer of ebooks. Kobo and Xinxii both have extensive partnerships with many retailers, including Chapters. For those of you interested in getting a presence in overseas markets, one or the other or both may be worth signing up and uploading to. But you may well need an ISBN for your ebook as part of the workflow to get your US ebook into an overseas outlet.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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


    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?


    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.


    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.


    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.


    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!


    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.


    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).


    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?


    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!



    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.


    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.


    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?


    Leave a Comment

    + 4 = five

    { 20 trackbacks }