This week, I had to delve into the mystical world of the ISBN, the number assigned to all books and used by publishers, distributors, and pretty much everyone in the publishing world for identification, tracking, and sale. As an author going through a publisher, I had never had to give this little but necessary item a second thought. My publisher acquired the number for me. In fact, most publishers and many self-publishing services such as Lulu, CreateSpace, and Smashwords, offer an ISBN when an book is published through them.
However, there are occasions when a writer must consider ISBN, namely when a writer wishes to go through a traditional printer, not a POD (pay on demand) printer. As a writer friend of mine recently considered this route, I’ve learned a great deal about ISBNs. So here are some of the basics.
- ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number.”
- Each region has a regulatory agency that distribute ISBNs. The agency for the United States is called Bowkers.
- ISBN numbers come in either 10 or 13 digit forms. The 13 digit ones are more recent.
- Different forms of a book require different ISBNs. For example, a digital copy of a book and a print copy would use two different ISBN numbers.
- Only publishers can acquire ISBN numbers, which they usually purchase in bulk. An individual that wishes to self-publish without using one of the common places like Lulu, CreateSpace, or Smashwords, must make themselves into a publisher before purchasing ISBNs.
- An ISBN is essential in practically all sales of books. They are how distributors identify and track books and their sales.