Tag Archives: ISBN

Do I need an ISBN?

I’ve had writers ask me this question…A LOT. As a result, I figured I’d find some Q&A to assist my blog readers. One piece of advice…you will find POD and other publishing services that offer a free ISBN. Purchase and use your own if you truly wish to self-publish. If you decide to use their free one, THEY will be listed as the publisher of your book and NOT you.


Now onto the ISBN Q&A (compliments of the ISBN User’s Manual):

Q: Why should I use an ISBN?

A: If you are a publisher or bookseller it may be in your own interest as you want to sell books. If your books cannot be ordered and distributed by ISBN and if they are not listed in Books in Print you may find that your books do not sell: People will assume your books do not exist, and if they know they may consider it too much of a bother to handle them in a traditional fashion.

Q: In our country the book-trade works mostly without computers.

A: You do not have to have computers to make use of ISBN. The 10 digit number saves you and other people the bother of copying bibliographic records. Also if you want to export your books, without ISBN they will not have a chance of being listed in Books in Print.

Q: Our country still lacks an efficient infrastructure in the book-sector.

A: Then ISBN is an ideal means of building the infrastructure and catch up with other countries!

I sell books but also stationary, toys, and many other items. As the ISBN only identifies books what can I do about the rest?

A: This material can be numbered by other numbering systems, like, e.g., EAN article numbers. Modern scanning equipment reads and processes the different kinds of bar-coded numbers.

Q: The EAN organisation asked me to become a member. Is this mandatory?

A: If you only want to use the ISBN in bar-coded form, you do not have to become a member. But as EAN and UCC provide other trade-related services, like electronic address numbers (location codes), EDI (electronic data interchange) formats etc., you may want to become a member. Check with your EAN organisation for information on their services.

Q: Does a price change require a new ISBN?

A: No.

Q: Does a new title require a new ISBN?

A: Yes, you need a new ISBN for a new title.

Q: I am publishing a book in a foreign language. Should it have an ISBN of the country in whose language the book is written?

A: No. It is the country where the publisher is based which determines the group identifier, and not the language of the text.

Q: I am revising a book. Does it require a new ISBN?

A: A (substantial) change of text requires a new ISBN, and if revisions have been made the back of the title page should state that the book is a revised edition, and the new ISBN should be printed there.

Q: Does a reprint without change of text, or binding require a new ISBN?

A: No. The original number must be retained.

Q: I would like to issue a new ISBN for marketing reasons. Is this permissible?

A: No. There is no change of text, format or binding which would justify a new ISBN.

Q: I am reprinting a book with a price change. Is a new ISBN required?

A: No. A price change does not require a new ISBN.

Q: Do I need a new ISBN when I am reprinting a book with a new title?

A: Yes, a new title requires a new ISBN.

Q: What happens if I have used all the numbers under my prefix?

A: An additional prefix can be assigned – allowing for a larger output if necessary. This is an additional prefix, and not a replacement.

Q: Is it possible to reassign ISBNs when the books to which they were allocated are out of print?

A: No. An ISBN identifies a given title, and its edition and binding for all time. Even if out of print it will still exist in some shops, and will certainly still exist in libraries.

Q: I am publishing a work in several volumes. Will one ISBN suffice or will each volume need its own ISBN?

A: The rules state that the set should have an ISBN, and that each volume should have its own, separate ISBN.

 I am taking over another firm, which already has an ISBN prefix. All future books will be published under my name. Can I renumber all the other firm’s titles?

A: Not until reprinted under your own imprint, carrying your own name.

Q: I am publishing a series of titles. Do I need an ISBN or an ISSN?

A: The series should receive an ISSN while the individual items receive ISBNs.

Q: I have a homepage on the Internet. Does it require an ISBN?

A: As a homepage is not in any way similar to published monograph ISBN assignment is not recommended. Such publications are covered, however, by DOI and/or URN..

Happy writing my friends. Happy writing….(Evin Wilkins –

1 Comment

Posted by on December 19, 2012 in Uncategorized


Tags: , ,