ISBN Numbers, Yes or No, Do I Need One for My Book?

Good question came in today from a reader

Thoughts on ISBN numbers? Is it better to purchase your own?

It is kind of mixed, ISBN which stands for International Standard Book Number and is manged by Bowker.com, and are the numbers that are used to track print books and help with distribution. You have to have one if you are going to be distributed to bookstores. They also indicate who the publisher is. They cost $125 each but you can reduce the cost if you buy a bundle of them. Most of the major print on demand companies, CreateSpace.com, Lulu.com, Blurb.com will supply ISBN numbers for free when you use their services, but you will have their name as the publisher. You can also buy them and use your own and the publisher will be your name. Kindle books don’t use ISBN numbers.

I think the decision comes down to if you are going to be a publisher or an author. If you are going to be selling physical books and distributing them through books stores then you have to have an ISBN number. If you are just going to stay on Amazon then you can use theirs. You can also do both, but distribution requires the number.

A couple of things to remember,
1. there aren’t a lot of book stores anymore and most book stores won’t take print-on-demand books from CreateSpace. If you are going in that business then maybe look at LightingSource.com for printing. You will be the distributor
2. Unfortunately most books don’t sell all that much so to taking a $125 hit right off the top might be the total sales of your book. Ouch.

What do I do? I just use the CreateSpace ISBN, it is way easier. I don’t really care who the publisher is, I just want to make books and sell them. You can always change, nothing is locked in, you retain all the rights to your books and content. Take the $125 and put it to marketing, especially on your first couple of books, then see what happens.