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Purchasing an ISBN Block

by Ron Kurtus (revised 26 August 2011)

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 10- or 13-digit number that identifies your book and provides information about its country, publisher and title. Bookstores, libraries, schools and online stores use the number when ordering books from publishers or distributors.

In the United States, you can purchase ISBN numbers through Bowker's U.S. ISBN Agency. Other countries have their own companies or agencies from which to purchase the numbers.

You typically include the ISBN for your book on your copyright page in the front matter of your book. The ISBN is also included as part of your barcode, which is placed on the back cover.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Reasons for an ISBN

The reason for an ISBN is that it specifically identifies your book as a way to facilitate the ordering process. Although you can sell your book without an ISBN, bookstores, libraries, schools, distributors and wholesalers usually will not order such books.

Every edition, version, and format of a book should have a separate ISBN in order to avoid confusion. This means that the hard cover, paperback, ebook, and audio versions of a book should each have a separate ISBN. Also, each edition of the material should have a separate ISBN.

The International ISBN Agency suggests that you have a different ISBN for each digital or ebook format, such as Kindle, EPUB, and PDF. However, many publishers do not follow that guideline.

Purchasing ISBN block in the U.S.

You can purchase an ISBN block for books published from the United States through Bowker Identifier Services. Besides the 10, 100 or 1000 ISBN blocks, Bowker offers the option of buying a single ISBN.

All sales include having the book information placed in their database and a web page, called an SEO Title Card that includes bibliographic data and cover image. If you know the ISBN of a book, you can see the SEO Title Card for the book.

You must first register with Bowker and provide your business and credit card information to purchase an ISBN block.

Buying single ISBN

The cost for a single ISBN in Bowker's Standard package is $125.

The Premium package for a single ISBN costs $185. This includes several other features and utilities.

Note: Some print-on-demand and vanity presses will also sell you a single ISBN and barcode. However, that lists them as the publisher of the book for this and future printings.

Since each form of a book (i.e. hardcopy, ebook, audio, etc.) requires a separate ISBN, purchasing only one ISBN may be short-sighted. However, it is obviously less expensive than buying 10 at a time.

Buying ISBN Blocks

The cost for a block of ISBN numbers is:

Note: Since the numbers purchased indicate the size of the block, people in the publishing business will know you are a beginner or self-publisher with few titles when you only purchase a block of 10.

Purchasing ISBN numbers worldwide

Various agencies sell ISBN numbers, according to the country in which the book is published.

The International ISBN Agency provides links and addresses of ISBN agencies throughout the world. Click their National Agencies drop down menu to select your country.

Typically, you will have to register with the agency and provide a means for paying for the numbers. You can purchase ISBN numbers in blocks of 10, 100 or 1000, as well as larger orders. Each ISBN agency has their own price list and perhaps some added benefits with the purchase.

Summary

An ISBN is a 10- or 13-digit number that identifies your book and provides publisher information. The reason to include an ISBN is because bookstores use the number when ordering books from publishers or distributors.

The International ISBN Agency provides links and addresses of ISBN agencies throughout the world. In the United States, you purchase ISBN numbers through Bowker.

You typically include the ISBN for your book on your copyright page in the front matter of your book. The ISBN is also included as part of your barcode, which is placed on the back cover.


Be prepared to sell your books


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

International ISBN Agency

Bowker Identifier Services

Publishing Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Self-Publishing


Questions and comments

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