What is an ISBN?
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. That, along with a barcode and the book's price are found on all books you buy from a store. I'm talking about physical copies.
- The free option-this option is very tempting simply because it is FREE. There is nothing wrong with choosing this option as long as you understand what it means. Choosing this option will list Createspace as your publisher. It also means that you can not sell your book in physical stores. Bookstores require the ability to return your books for 100 years. If you use Createspace or another POD, the books are not returnable. Createspace owns that ISBN and won't let you use it outside their system.
- The $10 option- this option lets you imprint your publishing name to the ISBN. This is a better option than #1, but still has its limitations. People won't see Createspace as your publisher. Your book will not be in stores. It will only be available through Amazon.com/expanded distribution and Createspace.com Createspace still owns the ISBN and the book is still not returnable.
- The $99 universal option lets you sell the book wherever you want. Yay, you say, but that's expensive. Here's the scoop. Go to myidentifiers.com and buy 10 ISBNs for only $250. A much better deal.
You get the most and best control of your books when you purchase your own ISBNs and have them listed under your publishing company's name. The more you buy at once, the cheaper they are.
The other thing you have to get is a barcode. This is what it looks like-
Createspace will generate one for free for you, but there are strings attached. It will not have the price encoded in it. This means you can not sell it in stores. Stores need the price encoded in the barcode. All Createspace barcodes end with the numbers 9000.
As a recap-
- Your print books must have an ISBN
- You need to decide if you want to be listed as the publisher or not
- You need to decide if you want your book to be sold in stores
- You get the most control by buying your own ISBNs
- Get your own barcode
eBooks-you must decide if you want an ISBN attached.
It used to be that in order to sell your eBook through Apple that you had to have an ISBN. That just changed. They no longer require it.
Smashwords will assign your eBook an ISBN for free. Again, that is linked to Smashwords and not your own publishing house. You can also opt to have your publishing company's name imprinted on it for $10. They will use this ISBN for all the places they distribute-Apple, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Diesel, etc. You can also assign your own ISBN that you purchase through Bowker.
Amazon lets you list your ISBN, but then assigns your book an unique ASIN number that they use to identify your book
Barnes and Noble uses your ISBN to identify your book if you give them one, or they assign it a unique BN number if you don't.
Apple uses your ISBN to identify your book if you give them one, or now they assign it a unique number
While it used to be that everyone got an ISBN for their eBooks so that Apple would carry them, it is no longer the case.
A lot of my author friends are opting out of using ISBNs for their eBooks now and are letting the various .coms assign their own numbers to them.
I like having my eBooks all listed under the same number on all sites-they are so easy to find and it gives me less to keep track of- so I still buy ISBNs for them. $25 for my own convenience.
My advice? Get a bundle of 10 ISBNs to use for your print books for sure. If you like the convenience of only having to keep track of one number for your eBooks, use one ISBN for each title as an eBook, too. Otherwise, go free, baby.