Do I need an ISBN?
An ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is a unique number assigned to every published book. An ISBN identifies a title’s edition, publisher, and physical properties such as ebook file type or size, or the number of pages in a print-on-demand book. Bookstores, retailers and libraries identify books by their ISBNs.
Do I need my own ISBN?
While it’s true some publishing platforms don’t require your book to have an ISBN, the lack of this unique identifier limits how and where your book can be sold. For example, Nook Press will accept a book without an ISBN, but they won’t sell that book through their distribution channels to other retailers.
Having an ISBN for your book means it will be listed in the global Books in Print directory used by libraries and booksellers. It’s also been shown that books with ISBNs are more ‘discoverable’ in Google and other web searches.
Many publishing sites offer you a free ISBN. It sounds tempting, but there are two major drawbacks to this. First, whoever owns the ISBN is listed as the publisher of your book. If you’re not the ISBN owner you can’t sell your book under that ISBN through another site, including your own website. Also, only the ISBN owner can enter data about your book into the Books in Print directory. This includes information about price, availability and other useful information such as your book blurb. There’s no guarantee the site that owns the ISBN will enter this information correctly for you, or update it when you ask them to.
At ebookedit we recommend self-publishing authors invest in their own ISBNs. Owning your own ISBN means you have complete control over all information about your ebook that is seen by libraries and booksellers.
If you choose to buy your own ISBN, remember that you need to assign a separate ISBN to each different format of your book: so you will need a separate ISBN for the epub file, the Kindle file, and any print-on-demand formats.
Authors must apply for ISBNs in their country of residence. In Australia, Thorpe Bowker manages ISBNs. You can buy ISBNs one at a time or in blocks. A block of 10 currently costs $84. You can manage your ISBNs and allocate them instantly through your own account page on the Thorpe Bowker website. The Thorpe Bowker site is at https://www.myidentifiers.com.au/isbn/main.