Whether you are a fan of reading or like to read occasionally, you have probably heard of the famous ISBN – for its acronym in English, International Standard Book Number. And you may have asked yourself, but what is an ISBN? Do I have to acquire an ISBN to publish my book? Due to the many users asking about this, we will reveal everything you need to know about the International Standard Book Number.
The history of the ISBN begins in the United Kingdom, conceptualized by David Whitaker in 1967 and later developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The result was a 10-digit IBAN code published in 1970. After its publication, the International ISBN Agency was authorized to distribute this new code to the rest of the world.
As the number of books published in the following decades grew, the International ISBN Agency ran out of combinations. The result was a change from the 10-digit ISBN code that had been in use to a 13-digit one in January 2007.
How does an ISBN work?
An ISBN is nothing more than an identification code, like any barcode you might find on any product in a supermarket. If a book has a barcode, it becomes identifiable (and therefore sellable) in any physical or online bookstore.
Each ISBN is unique to a particular book format. If you wanted to publish the same book, but one with a hardcover, another in paperback, and another in e-book format, each of these variations would require a different ISBN. The explanation is simple: they are other book writing company, legally and physically speaking, even though the content is the same.
Similarly, if you wanted to publish an update to your book, for example, adding episodes or changing the prologue, this would also require a different ISBN. Although this may seem cumbersome for the author, the large number of books in circulation makes it necessary.
The elements of an ISBN
We will use this ISBN code issued by Writers of USA as an example. As we already know, it comprises a total of 13 digits. These numbers may be slightly modified depending on the publisher or retailer that issued them. An example is how some versions will have the code at the top of the bars, while in others, this is replaced by the book’s price. Bottom line: Don’t worry if your ISBN isn’t precisely the same as the book you’re reading. It’s normal.
In general, an ISBN is made up of five elements separated from each other by a space or a hyphen:
- International prefix: This element is always 3 digits long, 978 or 979. These numbers are made available by GS1 (the organization that issues the barcodes). It simply serves to identify the product as a book.
- Registration group: is an element that identifies the geographical area (country, region…) or a specific linguistic area that participates in the system.
- Publishing agent: identifies the editor or publisher. Larger publishers may have more than one number associated with them.
- Title Identifier: This digit identifies the specific title associated with this particular ISBN.
- Check digit: which mathematically validates the rest to verify an ISBN.
The ISBN User Manual says the following about where an ISBN code can be placed:
In the case of printed publications:
- On the verso of the title page (copyright page)
- At the bottom of the title page, if there is no space on the copyright page.
- At the bottom of the back cover
- On the bottom of the back of the dust jacket or any other protective sleeve or wrapper
For digital publications:
- It must appear where the title appears (CDs, online publications, etc.), that is, on the first page or on the screen that displays the title or its equivalent (for example, the first screen shown when accessing the content or in the screen displaying copyright information).
Additionally, the manual states that the code should be printed/displayed in a font large enough to be readable, specifically 9 points or more significant.
However, you do not need to worry about this if you publish with us. When you buy an ISBN for your book through our platform, we will place the code in the correct place and size.
Do I need to acquire an ISBN to publish my book?
The answer to this question is no.
Purchasing an ISBN is unnecessary for you to publish or print your book. Its only usefulness lies in the fact that it makes it easier to store and sell. You could, for example, print copies of your books and sell them in person or through your website instead of through an intermediary. If you publish your book with Writers of USA, you will not need an ISBN to put it on sale in our online store either.
If you want to make money with your books, you should acquire an ISBN. The sales channels available to you with an ISBN offer a greater reach than you could reach on your own. Additionally, people like to shop in stores whose brands are recognizable. The fact that your book is found on one of these channels will increase your legitimacy as a writer.
Regardless, getting people to buy your book directly through you or our store whenever possible would be best. This will offer you the highest profit margin per copy – for every book you sell in our store, you must sell two through a third party. You can also create free widgets on our website, making this task less arduous.
Acquire an ISBN
If you want to buy an ISBN, you can do so while you publish your book on our platform – so you don’t miss a beat – for €12.75.
This way, you will have direct access to all our distributors without creating an individual account with each platform. In addition, all your sales and other relevant data about these distribution channels can be seen on the Writers of USA website, offering you a much more practical view.
Okay, enough to throw flowers at us! If you were stopping by to learn more about an ISBN, but you don’t intend to publish a book with non fiction writing, no problem. If you want to purchase an ISBN elsewhere, we recommend contacting your publisher. They typically do not accept ISBNs purchased through others as it is a hassle for their databases. In other words, you should probably choose how and where to publish your book before buying an ISBN.
If I publish in two or more formats (for example, EBook and paperback), do I need to assign them other ISBNs?
If, as an author, you want to publish your book in different formats, you should know that different ISBNs are required for this. The explanation is straightforward, and although the book’s content is the same, the editions are other.
If I have previously published my book with a publisher and want to use your services, can I use my old ISBN?
The answer is no. The explanation is straightforward: the publisher in question is identified in this code. To publish your book with Writers of USA, you must acquire one of our ISBNs in step 2.