ISBN Tips

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How are ISBNs used?

How To Use ISBNs

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) are assigned to books and ebooks. They are used by three main groups: publishing houses, book traders and libraries. All of the groups use ISBNs for ordering, stock control and any accounting that needs to be done. In addition, they use ISBNs for other purposes:
- Publishing houses use ISBNs to monitor sales date and manage rights and royalties
- Book traders use ISBNs for sales, bibliographic searches and books in print directories
- Libraries use ISBNs for information retrieval, inter-library loans, loans, cataloguing and maintaining a national bibliography.

   
How can I get an ISBN for my book if I don't live in the US?

ISBNs Abroad

There are more than 160 countries and territories that belong to the International Standard Book Numbering (ISBN) scheme. To find the agency that is responsible for issuing an ISBN in your country or region, visit the international ISBN website (www.isbn-international.org). This has a list of all the agencies for countries, regions and language groups. Many self publishers' websites have links to the relevant ISBN agency within a particular country. This is a good place to start when looking for an ISBN for your self-published ebook.

   
Why do some ISBNs have 13 digits?

ISBNs Turn 13

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) are due to change from 10 to 13 digits in 2007. Some publishers have already started using the new system. The expansion of self-publishing and ebook publishing means that there is little capacity left in the 10 digit numbering system. Although the 10 digit system theoretically allows one billion different numbers, the actual possibilities are limited because of the way the ISBNs are divided into group identifier, publisher identifier, title identifier and check digit. The new 13 digit ISBN will also make book numbering compatible with the 13 digit European Article Numbering (EAN) system. This is useful so that books can easily be sold from non-traditional outlets, such as supermarkets and shops. Existing 10 digit ISBNs will automatically be converted by having a 3 digit prefix.

   
Do I own my "assigned" ISBN number?

Transferring an ISBN Book Number

ISBN book numbers are non-transferable. A company that tells you that they are "assigning" you an ISBN book number and that you "own" that number is lying to you (this is a favorite trick amongst the vanity/subsidy publishers). They assign a book a "unique" ISBN book number but that number is not owned by the author, it is owned by the vanity/subsidy press.

If you use one of these ISBN numbers and then go to change publishers/printers/publishing services, or enter into self book publishing, you will have to start all over and get your own ISBN book number from the only place licensed to sell ISBN's - RR Bowker.

   
How do I get an ISBN assigned to my book?

Buying your ISBN

ISBN book number ownership is perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of self-publishing your own book. The Internet is full of misinformation on the subject. Every book that is going to be sold commercially must have an ISBN book number -- period.

*NOBODY can assign, give, lend or sell you an ISBN except for the US agency, RR Bowker. So, when self publishing books, just visit http://www.bowker.com/ to find out all the information you need to obtain an ISBN.

   

What's an ISBN and Should a Self-Publisher Get One?

Many self-publishing companies include providing an ISBN in their self-publishing services or allow the self-publisher the option of providing the ISBN.

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a number that uniquely identifies each book. It's been called the “social-security number for books.” To ensure its uniqueness, ISBN numbers can only be obtained from one source, R.R. Bowker.

The owner of the ISBN is the official publisher of the book. As the official publisher, the owner of the ISBN is the only company who can


  • submit the book for reviews and awards

  • update publisher information on Amazon.com or BN.com

  • get a book carried by a distributor or wholesaler

Self-publishing service companies suggest they can save you the time and expense of requesting ISBN numbers from Bowker. But to have another company own your book's ISBN number is to relinquish control over too many important aspects of your book's future.

Go to R.R. Bowker's website, www.isbn.org and request your ISBN numbers. The request process is simple and it's worth the price!

   
Why do some ISBNs have 13 digits?

ISBNs Turn 13

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) are due to change from 10 to 13 digits in 2007. Some publishers have already started using the new system. The expansion of self-publishing and ebook publishing means that there is little capacity left in the 10 digit numbering system. Although the 10 digit system theoretically allows one billion different numbers, the actual possibilities are limited because of the way the ISBNs are divided into group identifier, publisher identifier, title identifier and check digit. The new 13 digit ISBN will also make book numbering compatible with the 13 digit European Article Numbering (EAN) system. This is useful so that books can easily be sold from non-traditional outlets, such as supermarkets and shops. Existing 10 digit ISBNs will automatically be converted by having a 3 digit prefix.

   
How are ISBN numbers used?

What are ISBN Numbers?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a unique, machine-readable identification number, which marks a book like a person's thumbprint marks that individual. This worldwide 10-digit number (soon to be 13 digit) is divided into the following four parts, each separated by a hyphen:

  • Group/country identifier: identifies a national or geographic group of publishers
  • Publisher identifier: identifies a publisher within a group
  • Title identifier: identifies a title or edition of a title
  • Check digit: single digit which validates the ISBN

U.S. publishers self book publishing should apply for ISBNs with the following agency: U.S. ISBN Agency, 630 Central Avenue, New Providence, NJ 07974, telephone: 877-310-7333, e-mail: isbn-san@bowker.com, website: www.isbn.org.

*Their website features an online application and a printable application that you may submit through the U.S. mail. The minimum number of ISBN's that can be purchased is 10 and is soon to go to 13.

   
What are the ISBN barcode numbers?

ISBN Barcode Tip

Don't forget the numbers! There are three numbers you may want to include on your cover in a scannable, barcode format:

  • The ISBN
  • Your book's cover price.
  • The UPC, or the Uniform Product Code

The ISBN is a universally recognized, 10-digit identification number. The first digit represents the country of origin. The second set of numbers identifies the publisher. The third set represents the title. And, the last digit is a self-check. Administered in the U.S. by R.R. Bowker, ISBN's are issued in blocks of 10.

*While self publishing books are not required to obtain ISBN's, distributors and most book stores will not accept a book without one.

   
How can I get a worldwide ISBN number?

Bookland EAN Barcode

Decode the code! The ISBN barcode for your book is easily translated into a worldwide compatible bar code format called a Bookland EAN (European Article Number). Every bookstore chain (and most smaller bookshops) use bar code scanning at the checkout register. A Bookland EAN Barcode costs $25 and is added to your cover file when your cover or dustjacket is designed.

*You can find out where to get the software online by searching for "Bookland EAN."

   
How can I get an ISBN for my book if I don't live in the US?

ISBNs Abroad

There are more than 160 countries and territories that belong to the International Standard Book Numbering (ISBN) scheme. To find the agency that is responsible for issuing an ISBN in your country or region, visit the international ISBN website (www.isbn-international.org). This has a list of all the agencies for countries, regions and language groups. Many self publishers' websites have links to the relevant ISBN agency within a particular country. This is a good place to start when looking for an ISBN for your self-published ebook.

   
How many ISBN's do I need?

Number of ISBN's Needed

ISBN book numbers are sold in blocks of 10 numbers by RR Bowker. Just like the savvy bookseller can tell if your ISBN book number belongs to you or to a vanity press, they can tell whether you own 10 numbers or 100. Owning a larger number of ISBN's lets booksellers know you are serious about your self publishing books program.

It has been suggested by some that you actually start your first book on your 5th or 6th number and assign the first 5-6 to titles that you may or may not even be publishing to make it look like you have a "program," and are not just self publishing only one book or a single title.

*10 numbers is infinitely better that using a number supplied by one of the many vanity/subsidy presses.

   
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