ISBN – Do You Really Know What It Is?

International Serial Book Number

The ISBN is a number assigned to books. This number simplifies book order fulfillment, contains bibliographic information in cataloging and is used for distribution and tracking purposes. This number is printed on catalog cards and entered in national and international databases.

  1. It has 10 or 13 digits.
  2. It is not required for an e-book.
  3. For hardcover books, the number should be printed on the verso of the title page and lower portion of the back cover or back.
  4. For paperback books, the number should be printed on the verso of the title page, outside back cover and spine of the book.
  5. An ISBN can never be reused, even when changing the price and reprinting with minor revisions
  6. Each media type must have its own number
  7. Multi-volume works muse use one ISBN if it is sold only as a set. If individual volumes of the set are sold separately, each volume requires its own ISBN. Both numbers should be printed on each volume.
  8. If the author changes its publisher, the book must be printed with the original ISBN, until the new publisher reprints.

To request an ISBN

Numbers are usually received 10 business days after a request from the following source. For an additional fee, this time can be shortened. Obtain ISBNs and detailed information from :

R.R. Bowker, LLC  


There you are able to purchase one ISBN for $125, 10 ISBNs for $295 and 100 ISBNs for $595.

However, if you’re using Create Space or Kindle Direct Publishing you have the option to generate an ISBN for free with some restrictions. See each company’s website and policy for more information.

Why you should care

You care about your ISBN because it plays a role in the marketing and selling of your book. If you choose to get a free ISBN for one or the other Publishing sites mentioned above, know that distribution of your book will be limited. However, if you purchase your own ISBN most book distributors will take that in use it to sell your work.  Therefore, before you click on that “Free ISBN” button weigh out the pros and the cons thoroughly.

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