We’re introducing a new feature on Popular Soda. It’s called Quick Questions and will contain the most basic information about an ebook-related subject in FAQ form. Today, we’re looking at ISBN.

What is an ISBN?

      ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a number assigned to a book only after the publisher (self-publisher or traditional) has requested it for the book. Each distinct version of a book (such as books with added forwards, extra chapters, and collector’s editions) will have its own ISBN.

How long is an ISBN?

      Some older ISBN may have as few as 9 numbers. Today, all ISBN should have 13 digits.

How do I get an ISBN?

      The exact process will depend on your country. Each country should have an office, department, or designated distributor assigned to overseeing ISBN for that country. Some examples…

US:  US ISBN Agency
UK: Nielsen UK ISBN Agency 
Canada: The Canadian ISBN Service System (CISS)
Australia: The Australian ISBN Agency 

      Contact the governing body of ISBN in your country to learn more information.

How much is an ISBN?

      Again, it depends on the country. In Canada, there is no fee. By comparison, the fees for ISBN in the United States are incredibly steep. A single ISBN costs $125 in the US, which is prohibitively expensive for many selfpub and indie authors.

Do I need an ISBN for my ebook?

      Short answer: no. Long answer, not necessarily. ISBN aren’t required for selling selfpub ebooks on the major ebook retailer sites. If your book is picked up by a traditional publisher after seeing ebook success, that publisher will be responsible for obtaining the ISBN. Even if you had an ISBN for your ebook, the hardback copy of your book would need a different ISBN anyway. In short, there’s no compelling reason to buy an ISBN for your ebook. If your book is lucky enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher, the publisher will take care of the ISBN for you.

What are the benefits to having an ISBN?

      The benefits to ISBN mostly apply to print books. It allows booksellers, libraries, and other retailers to stock, classify, and sell your book. In some countries, ISBN are required for hardback books in libraries. Additionally, all sales data is linked to your ISBN, providing you with statistics and opportunities for better marketing. However, in the ebook world, you can find much of the same information simply by checking your account on any ebook retailer site (like Amazon, Smashwords, etc).

      Got more questions on ISBN or an idea for a future Quick Questions? Send us an email at admin@popularsoda.com or tweet @popular_soda.

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