What is an ISBN? Do I need one to publish my book?

An ISBN is an International Book Standard Number. It identifies the book, and it’s usually printed with the barcode on the back and on the book’s title page. If an ISBN was assigned before 2007, it’ll be 10 digits long. If it’s after that, it’ll be 13 digits long. The ISBN records the book’s metadata – so the publisher, the title and the country that it was published in – and is unique to that book. This means it can be easily identified by any bookseller or library. What do the numbers in the ISBN mean? The numbering system can get pretty complicated (check out the Wikipedia page if you want an in-depth analysis) but basically the numbers tell you the country, the publisher and the title, and the final digit is a checking number to ensure the code’s correct. Do I need an ISBN? Basically, yes. If you’re planning on just printing a book as a gift or a private record, you don’t need an ISBN. But if you’re planning on selling your book, or think you might want to sell it or give it away more widely in the future, you need an ISBN. What is the barcode for? Do I need a barcode? The barcode on a book is the ISBN in a machine-readable format. If you’re planning on selling hard copies of your book, then you will need a barcode. Usually, barcodes are provided by the publisher or self-publishing companies. It’s only if you’re getting your book printed privately that you’ll need to purchase a barcode along with your ISBN. Who sells ISBNs? Where can I get mine? ISBNs are sold by national agencies in each country. In the US, Bowker deals with ISBN purchases; in the UK, it’s Nielsen. If you put in “ISBN” and *your country*… read more →