ISBNS

Why you want to own your ISBN

If a print on demand service is listed as the publisher, books can only be printed and ordered through them or their distributor - eg. Amazon.

With my own ISBN, I'm listed as the publisher and so can take the same edition of the book to another printer if I wanted.

An ISBN is basically a unique, global identifier for your book.  So if there are two books with the same title, each book will have a different ISBN to identify it.  If a book is re-released as a new edition (eg. with a foreward or to commemorate an anniversary) it has a different ISBN to identity the new edition. 

You don't have to have an ISBN to publish a book. However if you plan to sell it through Amazon or bookstores you do. 

ISBNs are assigned to publishers by different agencies in different countries. If you're self publishing, you can also apply as an individual however you would list yourself as the publisher (as you're funding it, and therefore essentially acting as the publisher).

Where a publisher is based (or operating from) is the country where you apply for an ISBN, not where the book is printed.

For example, I'm an Australian author, my publishing company is based in Hong Kong, and my book is printed and shipped through Createspace (based in the US but with printing houses in different countries).

So I apply for my ISBN in Hong Kong because that's where my publishing company is legally estabalished and operates out of.  

Side note: In Australia, for 10 ISBNs it costs AUD $139 (includes a off registration fee of $55). In US it costs USD $295. In UK, £144 (includes registration fee).  In Hong Kong, it's free.  

If you're self publishing through Createspace, they can assign your book an ISBN for free. However it means that Createspace is listed as the publisher, not you.

Does this matter? It does to me. 

If Createspace is listed as the publisher, books can only be printed and ordered through Amazon. With my own ISBN, I'm listed as the publisher and so can take the same edition of the book to another printer if I wanted. For example, I can print the same edition of the book through Ingram which is what libraries and bookstores order through.  I would buy my own ISBNs even if I had to pay 300 USD. 

FAQ on ISBNs: http://www.isbn.org/faqs_general_questions#isbn_faq20

Why you should have your own ISBN: http://writenonfictionnow.com/should-you-buy-your-own-isbn-when-you-self-publish/  

Posted on July 8, 2015 and filed under DIY Publishing.