On February 8, 2015, I posted a basic pre-release checklist for a book written by an author who is self-publishing. In the next few weeks, I’m going to write explanatory posts for a few items in the checklist. These will nicely continue my blogs under the category How to Self-Publish.
This week, a short technical note on ISBNs. You will have seen them with a barcode on the back of most paperbacks.
An ISBN is a unique identifier for a book by edition and format. Different ISBNs are issued for different print and eBook formats of a title, and also for different editions. Before 2007, ISBNs were ten digits; beginning 2007, they became thirteen digits. ISBNs are recognized by many countries.
Computers came to be used in the second half of the twentieth century for order processing and inventory control. A machine readable book identifier for automated systems was obviously more efficient than long bibliographic descriptive records.
Obtaining an ISBN for a self-published book is not required in most countries. For example, Amazon Kindle relies on its own identifier system. Still, the benefits of ISBNs discussed in part 2 of the ISBN Users’ Manual make it clear that every self-pub author in her capacity as a publisher should be using one for each edition and format of her book.
For example, ISBNs are used:
- to compile and update book directories, databases and catalogs;
- to order and distribute books; and
- within library systems.
Each country has a National ISBN Agency that issues ISBNs to publishers. You can find the one for your country here. Some agencies charge a fee. Canadians are lucky. Library and Archives Canada issues them for free.
Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze
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