ISBN Number: How to Get ISBN Number in 12 Steps

It is common knowledge that a book cannot be published without an ISBN. Also, as a self-published author, you might not be truly fulfilled if you do not know how to get an ISBN. Although you can always pay someone to help you get an ISBN, you will be spending less if you know how to get an ISBN by yourself.

To the average person, becoming an author is basically about writing books. However, the reality is being an author is a lot more than writing books. You should understand how books should be published.

Are you an author and are looking to publish a book? You are on the right page. Let me walk you through the major steps to follow to get an ISBN number.

How to Get ISBN Number in 12 Steps

  1. What Does ISBN Mean

The ISBN number can be traced to the Second World War and it basically means International Standard Book Number. It could either be a 13 or 10 digit number. This number makes it possible for libraries, book dealers, and publishers to locate and identify the exact book they are looking for.

  1. What is the Use of ISBN Numbers?

The ISBN number was established in 1967. Before it was established, there was a method for locating various books. However, this method was quite messy.

Although the ISBN number can be used to locate a specific book, it does more than just help librarians locate whatever books they are looking to get. It makes it possible for authors to get their books into a library or book store.

So, regardless of how good your book is, in the absence of an ISBN number, you cannot have your book in a library or bookstore.

  1. Why Was the ISBN Created?

The ISBN number was basically created as a means of identifying books. It was created for stationers and booksellers by Gordon Fister in 1965.

  1. How Can One Get an ISBN Number?

The ISBN number can be gotten for free or for a price. However, this is dependent on what part of the world you are in. Also, in several countries, the ISBN number is given to authors either by a publicly administered branch or by the government.

However, this is not always the case in the UK and the US. In these countries, Nielsen and Bowker are responsible for providing authors with the ISBN number. However, for this, you will need to pay a fee.

If you intend to get an ISBN in the United States, you will need to head to Once on this site, choose the numbers you need. Once you have these numbers, add them to the cart and move on. However, if you are an author in Amazon Kindle, the publishing platform offers a free ISBN number for authors that don’t have it.

  1. How Can I Read an ISBN Number?

A lot of book readers do not worry about knowing how to read an International standard book number. However, if you are a book distributor or publisher, it is important that you know how to read an ISBN number

The 13 digit numbers that make up the ISBN number contain several important details. Some of them are;

  • The book title
  • The author of the book
  • The type of book
  • The part of the world the publisher is in
  • The book’s physical properties


Generally, the numbers that make up the ISBN can be broken into five groups. The first group which is made of three numbers is an indication that the group of numbers are for an ISBN.

The next group is made up of a single number which is an indication of the language group in which the book was published in.

If you see the number 7, then, the book is for China, 5 stands for Russia, 4 stands for Japan, 3 stands for German, 2 stands for French, and 1 stands for English.

There are several languages in the world. This means not all languages can have a single number as a means of identification. Languages that are very rare can have as many as four numbers identifying them.

The next group signifies the publisher code. It simply identifies the publisher of the book. This number can be as short as two and as long as nine numbers.

Next is a number that represents the book title.

The last group is a number called the check digit. It is usually a single-digit

ISBN number

  1. Why do I Need an ISBN Number

Do you have any plans of self-publishing an eBook? If yes, then, you do not need an ISBN number. On the other hand, if you are making use of multiple aggregators, you might have to get an ISBN number.

That’s not all. Authors that plan to print their books and distribute them physically or intend to produce audiobooks really need an ISBN number to do business.

In as much as you will not need an ISBN number if you have no plans of producing your book in audio form, it is a great investment if you decide to get an ISBN number as you just might want to create a physical copy of your book one day.

  1. Who Needs an ISBN Number

Before going ahead to get an ISBN number, you must have a good understanding of what you stand to benefit from this number.

Beyond knowing what to benefit from an ISBN number, there are groups of people that should get one. Some of these people are;

  • Authors that are looking forward to selling physical copies of their books in brick and mortar stores.

If you lack an ISBN number, then, you should forget about distributing your book in physical stores.

Every book writer that is looking to sell their books to libraries all around the world must have an ISBN number. In as much as the first place, you intend to sell your book might not necessarily be in the library, libraries can go a long way in making your book visible.


Every author that has plans of publishing several books and want to be branded as a legitimate publisher has to get their own ISBNs. You have the freedom to select the name that shows up as a publisher after paying for different ISBNs.

  1. What is the cost of an ISBN Number?

The price of an ISBN number is greatly dependent on where you are. If you are getting one in the United States, you will have to part with $125 to get an ISBN number through Bowker. Nonetheless, if you intend buying more than one ISBN number at a time, you will not have to pay as much as $125 for one number.

If you are publishing a book for the first time, you might not have to pay for an ISBN number if you simply intend to publish on Amazon Kindle. On the other hand, if you will be publishing with other self-publishing services, you will have to pay a fee.

Since Amazon’s free ISBN can only be used on Amazon, it is best to overlook it and pay for an ISBN number that can be used on other platforms.

  1. How Long Before an ISBN Number Gets Ready

After applying for an ISBN number, it will get ready five business days after your non-priority application gets to Bowker.

If you want to cut this down to two business days, you will need to select priority processing. That’s not all. By selecting express processing, your ISBN can get ready in 24 hours.

  1. Does ISBN Number Expire?

As soon as you get an ISBN number, you can be certain you will always have it as the ISBN numbers do not expire.

If you have an ISBN number that is very old, you can go on to reconstruct it and keep using it.

  1. Difference between Barcode and ISBN

ISBN might seem related to barcodes. However, they’re different. These two numbers can both be found behind a book cover. Nonetheless, they should not be treated as one.

Barcodes are basically about sales. They contain details as regards sales. This includes the currency in which a book is sold and its price. The barcode is not a standard number. It changes based on the store it is sold in.

  1. ASIN vs ISBN

The ASIN ( Amazon Standard Identification Number) has some similarities to ISBN. However, it is not the same.  Regardless of the fact that ISBN and ASIN differ, ASIN can easily be said to operate like ISBN. However, it is restricted to Amazon.

If a book has an ISBN code that is made of 10 digits, then its ASIN will basically be the same. However, if it has an ISBN of 13 digits, its ASIN will be different.

If you are trying to get a book on Amazon, you can always rely on THE ASIN. However, you will be unable to find the same book out of Amazon with the ASIN.


It really is up to you to decide if having an ISBN is something you want or need. If you do not intend selling on physical stores, you might want to skip getting an ISBN code. However, if you must print your book, you will have to settle for an ISBN code.

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Hi, I'm Benedict. The founder of Bennyselfpublishing Academy. A platform designed to teach people how to write and publish their books online and offline from the comfort of their homes. When I am not writing, I am outside playing football or watching my favorite team Chelsea play.

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