What is an ISBN and do you need one?

When it comes to self publishing you will need to be aware of how to get an ISBN. Firstly though, what is an ISBN and why do you need one?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It isn’t a legal requirement to allocate ISBNs to your books but it is used by publishers, booksellers and libraries for ordering, listing and stock control purposes. Every books ISBN is unique and you must have one to get your book into a book shop, on amazon, in a library – in fact anywhere!

There are exceptions that don’t require a number and those are publications that don’t have a defined end so things like magazines, journals or newspapers, for example.

So back to the ISBN, assuming you need one, this is how the number breaks down and what each part means…

The first three digits show that it’s an ISBN, the next number tells you what language the book is in and its country of origin. The next numbers relate to the publisher, the the following number identifies the title, edition and format of the book and the last number is the check digit.

So now you know what an ISBN is and what it’s used for, how do you get one?

If you’re in the UK, one of the easiest ways to purchase an ISBN is through neilsen online – http://www.nielsen-online.com. Here they will take you through the process step by step and allocate you your unique number.

On their website, if you’re just looking to publish one book or just one edition then you can buy a single ISBN, however if you’re planning on revisions or further editions you will be able to buy blocks of ISBNs at a discount. You will then need to use your ISBN to generate a barcode and this appears on the back cover. Once you have this number you can then go to a number of websites, a quick google search will give you ISBN barcode generators. You enter your number and then download your unique barcode and add it to your cover artwork.

One final point – the ISBN will also need to be inserted on the reverse of the title page, along with the copyright line.

We hope this has helped you in your journey to self publishing and we look forward to receiving your order for print!