ISBN Lookup and FAQ's

Discover When You Need ISBN Numbers for Self Publishing



ISBN lookup, ISBN number search, ISBN numbers for your self published book. Most likely you are familiar with this acronym: ISBN (International Standard Book Number). But, what is it really, why do you need one and where is the ISBN lookup found?

The ISBN number is commonly confused with a barcode. However, the ISBN number is not the barcode. It is simply what it says it is... a number.

When you do an ISBN lookup or ISBN number search, you simply type in the assigned 10 or 13 digit number to get the book title, author and publisher. Pretty slick, huh?

ISBN Lookup

If you want to find a book by an ISBN lookup, you have several options:

When Do Self Publishers Need an ISBN Number?

So what is an ISBN number and why do you need one?

The ISBN number is an identifier used world-wide and continues to be the standard for identifying books internationally. In short, you could say that the ISBN number is an identifier.

It identifies the title of the book (print, audio, electronic, etc.) that is either published or self published and also identifies the book's publisher. Therefore, if a bookstore wants to order a particular book, the ISBN number allows them to contact the publisher and place an order. It is also helpful to the publishers for tracking orders and sales for a particular book.

If you plan on selling your books in stores, libraries or with wholesalers, then you need an ISBN number. However, if you plan on selling your books on your own, then an ISBN number is not required.

According to ISBN.org, you are to issue a new ISNB number for the same book published in different ways.

For example, you will need a new ISBN number for:

  • Each updated edition of your book
  • Each different version of your book (audiobook, PDF, electronic, etc.)
  • Each language the book is written

If you made minor changes to your book and reprint it, no new ISBN number is needed.

Should You Use the ISBN from the Publisher or Get Your Own?

ISBN lookup One of my barcodes from Createspace

It's really up to you. The ISBN number simply identifies the publishing company. If you want to be your own publisher, then you'll need to buy your own ISBN number.

I personally use the free ISBN number and barcode given to me by Createspace (see the picture to the right). I see no reason why I should pay extra money for my own ISBN number when Createspace provides one for free. In the end, I still own the copyright of my book and can still publish it with another publisher if I choose.

However, if I do publish the same book with another publisher, I will need a new ISBN number to use with the new publisher. For example, let's say that I decide to publish my book with Createspace and two years later, want to publish it with XYZ Publishing Company. If more than one publisher is publishing the same book, then each publisher needs their own ISBN number and the publisher who fulfills a particular order puts their ISBN number on the book.

Read the fine print with your publishing company. If you're not comfortable using their ISBN number, then most of the time you can use your own.

You can buy ISBN numbers in blocks at the US ISBN agency's website, Myidentifiers.com. The prices listed below are for 2010:

  • 1 = $125 (standard package)
  • 10 = $250 (or $25 each)
  • 100 = $575 (or $5.75 each)
  • 1000 = $1000 (or $1 each)

Where Do You Put the ISBN Number?

Make sure you place the ISBN on the copyright page of your book as well as the back cover.

If your publisher places a barcode on your book for you, like Createspace, then you don't need to worry about the back cover. If you need a barcode made, you can have it done at the US ISBN agency's website, Myidentifiers.com for $25 or do a search online for other barcode providers.

What Does An ISBN Number Look Like?

You may see ISBN numbers that are both 10 digits and 13 digits long. Why? Well ISBN numbers were 10 digits for over thirty years. Then, on January 1, 2007 the official ISBN system changed to 13 digit numbers. Therefore all new ISBN numbers are now 13 digits long.

If you bought your ISBN prior to the switch, don't worry. You can get yours switched over by using the converter at ISBN.org. However, you can not change your number by simply placing three digits in front of it. It must be properly converted.

Unfortunately, once a book is published with a certain ISBN number, that number can never be reused.

What items are not eligible for ISBN numbers?

  • Advertising materials
  • Blogs (ISBN numbers are not assigned to items updated frequently like blogs, magazines or online databases)
  • Board games
  • Calendars
  • Music CD's (ISBN numbers are only assigned to audiobook CD's or instructional CD's)
  • Clothing
  • Coffee mugs
  • Electronic newsletters
  • Video games
  • Emails
  • Food/medicine
  • Magazines, academic journals or other periodicals
  • Online databases
  • Pictures/photos (ISBN numbers are used only for text, never for pictures)
  • Playing cards
  • Sheet music
  • Software (ISNB numbers are only used for educational software)
  • Toys
  • Web-sites


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