800.767.6066 316.522.5599

Does my self-published book need an ISBN?

This depends on your goals for your book. But first, let’s go over what an ISBN is and what it does.

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s displayed on the back of a book as a 13-digit number and matching barcode.

But what does it do?

An ISBN identifies your book in an international database. Certain metadata is attached to the number when it’s registered, like the author’s name and the book’s genre and format (such as hardcover or paperback).

Whether you need an ISBN is dependent on your book’s need to be in that database. Libraries and bookstores use ISBNs to order and maintain inventory, so you’ll need an ISBN if you’d like your book to be sold through a bookstore, listed on sites like Amazon, or purchased by libraries.

If you’ll be distributing your book to friends and family or selling all of the copies yourself on a personal website or at trade shows, an ISBN is not necessary.

How do I get an ISBN?

This varies by country, so you might need to look up the issuer in your region. For the United States, ISBNs are issued by Bowker. They’re available for $125 apiece, or 10 ISBNs for $295. Each separate format requires a different ISBN, so if you intend to write multiple books or release different formats for one book (such as e-book, hardcover, and paperback), the pack of 10 might be your best bet.

Some self-publishing services will offer “free” ISBNs, but it’s best to check the fine print carefully. In many of these instances, that publisher owns the ISBN, which means you will be unable to take it with you if you choose to leave that publisher. Purchasing your own ISBN means you’ll always maintain ownership of it.

What about the barcode on the back of the book?

That barcode allows booksellers and libraries to quickly scan your book in their system. Bowker does sell barcodes, but you can also use the site Bookow to create a barcode graphic if you’re designing your own cover. Bookow is free to use, but it does run on voluntary donations.

If our pre-press team designs your cover, no need to worry; we will create the barcode for you based on the 13-digit ISBN you provide.

We hope this sheds a little light on ISBNs and helps you in your self-publishing journey. Our knowledgeable and experienced team would love to help you with printing your book. Please give us a call or email today.

See What Our Customers Have to Say

Despite all the revisions I threw at you, this was still the smoothest catalog development/printing/distribution in our company history! I am grateful to have you as a partner moving forward!

– Manufacturing Industry | Marketing Manager

POD Print is an amazing company to work with! Everyone on the team is always very helpful. Whether we need ideas for new projects or a last-minute shipment, we know we can count on POD Print. Our company wouldn’t be where it is without them.

– Trade School Director

POD Print has been a long-time partner with us. The whole team always works hard to understand our business needs and customize a solution to help us achieve our goals. The result is a high-quality product paired with a quick response and a smile.

– Flight Instruction | Program Director

POD Print’s online portal has been a huge benefit to our company. We needed a convenient way to order our printed material, and POD Print delivered. The system is easy to use, and adding new items is quick and simple. We see POD Print as our partner in delivering a better product to our customers.

– Flight Instruction Facility | Program Director

POD Print is a wonderful company. Not only do they take pride in their product; they always go far and beyond the norm to help and assist if any dilemma may arise or any improvements are needed.

– Aviation Industry | Supply Chain Specialist

I asked a successful author who his favorite printer was. When he said POD Print without hesitation, that was enough endorsement. I quickly learned that POD Print is enthusiastic, friendly, competent, and encouraging. Now when people ask me where I got my books printed, I don’t hesitate to tell them POD Print as well.

– Author