Why It's Essential to Buy Your Own ISBNs

If you are an independently published author who wants to self-publish professionally, you absolutely must buy your own set of 10 ISBNs. Just go to the Bowker My Identifiers site and sign up for an account. Buy 10 ISBNs for $295 or 100 for $575. It costs $125 for one, and you’ll need two or three: one each for your hardback, paperback, and ebook. It doesn’t matter where you distribute – it’s the format that counts.

Which book format needs its own ISBN?

Paperback: For example, your paperback printed and distributed by Amazon CreateSpace to the Amazon store will use exactly the same PDF files: cover, interior, ISBN and barcode as the paperback distributed by IngramSpark to all the other retailers and the copies you print with an offset press.

Hardback: No matter where you print and distribute your hardback book – if you decide to create one – you’ll use the same ISBN for that, too. (I recommend IngramSpark for hardback book creation and distribution.)

EPUB: If you distribute your ebook with BookBaby, GateWay Press, IngramSpark, or Smashwords, you’ll need one ISBN for the EPUB version. That EPUB will be sent to Amazon, who will create a Kindle file from it, so you do not need a separate Kindle ISBN.

Kindle: If you upload your ebook to Amazon KDP directly, you’ll need a separate ISBN for the Kindle edition.

The cost of ISBNs

ISBNs are purchased from the ISBN agency in your country. In most cases, this will be Bowker. In the United States, ISBNs are expensive. In Canada, they’re free.

ISBNs from Bowker for Self-Publishers

Don’t be trapped

When you buy your own ISBN you’ll never be trapped with an unscrupulous author services company (like those offered by Author Solutions companies), who charge much too much for services and mark up the print copies of your books.

Look professional to bookstores

You also need your own ISBNs to obtain an LCCN and PCIP block for libraries. You may not aim to distribute to libraries but if you want your book to look just like those published by the Big 5 publishing houses, you’ll want a CIP block on your copyright page.

The freedom to change

A “free” ISBN is never free. It comes with a price. I’ve helped many authors extricate themselves from Author Solutions and other predatory self-publishing services. Buy your own ISBNs and you’ll never be trapped.


Do you need help navigating the intricacies of Bowker, buying ISBNs, creating metadata, choosing a distributor, or any other geeky publishing assistance? Just let me know!

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