Tue | Sep 25, 2018

Why pay for an ISBN when you can get one for free?

Published:Sunday | January 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMCorine La Font

Oops! Some people did not know this and may be disappointed to just find out after spending at the National Library or at Bowker, to name a few. I have had a few authors who came to me for my services and professional advice and had already bought their International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and couldn't use it.

For those of you reading this that are not aware of what an ISBN is, it is simply a numeric code referenced in both 10 and 13 digits that are used to identify your book, its author(s) and format of the book. Ideally, each format should have its own ISBN, that is print, audio and Kindle/ebook, but what tends to happen is that Amazon, when publishing the ebook of the same title, assigns an ASIN (a topic for another article) to that specific format.

The ISBN is attached to your book permanently. It should not be tampered with or changed.


The thing is, once you are self-publishing, it is wise and cost-effective to just obtain the free assigned ISBNs from the platform you are using. It may be Create Space or Lulu, for example. These ISBNs are to be used with those books published on these platforms and can also be used for both print and Kindle versions of the same title. Each title must have its own ISBN.

If you are going the traditional route of a publishing house, then you will have to purchase your ISBNs from the central library in your local area or via Bowker.

Don't think that you can use the ones purchased on Create Space or Lulu. It wouldn't be accepted and it wouldn't work.

If you already purchased ISBNs and in a case like this, you may have to purchase a minimum of 10 at a time, when I last checked. I can't recall the price because I don't publish through the traditional route; you don't have to necessarily lose out on your investment. You can, if you wish, decide to print some local copies through a local printing press and utilise the numbers that way. It may be cheaper to go that route to save on shipping and handling costs when ordering printed copies of your book that you self-published online; so all is not lost. It all depends on your pocket and perspective.

If you are a Jamaican author and wish to learn more about ISBNs, feel free to go to http://www.nlj.gov.jm and click on the services tab, and to learn more about Bowker's services for the US, go to http://www.bowker.com

ISBNs are not an exciting topic to speak on but I am sure it was useful to know that you can obtain it for free, and if you did make a purchase how it can be put to use.

n Corine La Font is a speaker, author, coach and self-publishing consultant. She is also an award-winning publishing resource in the 2013 Small Business Book Awards. Get a copy of her book at http://amzn.to/TFHQka. Subscribe to her magazine at http://bit.ly/1IDj7pQ, tune in to her radio programme at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/helpdeskja and check out her website at http://www.helpdeskja.com. She can be reached at corinelaf@gmail.com.