Why You Need Your Own ISBN Numbers

So, I’ve published quite a few books on my own over the years. I’ve always had ISBNs with my books (international serial book number – basically the ID number of your book so it can be found anywhere). At one point, a few years ago, I bought 10 of them from Bowker, the main company that sells ISBN numbers, with the assumption it would take me a while to use them. I have finally used them all, and with several books in the pipeline for the rest of this year, it became clear I would need more.

But they’re expensive! Bowker now charges $295 for ten numbers (or just $125 for a single number!). It’s a high upfront cost, and I know it’s a small cost when you project the revenue from 10 books. But it still bites.

I’ve moved recently to using Ingram Spark for publishing Anglotopia’s books (I may write about the switch eventually). Happy with it so far – it offers hardcover options which Amazon KDP doesn’t offer (plus many different trim sizes). They offer a free ISBN if you use their system to publish the book. I did a few books recently with this feature.

But then, I wondered, what’s the cost of free? What’s the benefit of having your own number versus just using one provided by Ingram (or KDP).

After a little research, I discovered why.

You need your own ISBN so that you’re listed as the publisher, not Ingram or Amazon KDP. They become the publisher of record if you’re using their numbers. As I run a corporation that acts as the publisher, I’d much rather my company be the publisher.

I wondered what this meant in practical reality.

So, I looked up Adventures in Anglotopia, where I had my own ISBN, to see who the publisher is listed as on Amazon. It was Anglotopia LLC.

I looked up a book where I used the ‘free’ ISBN and sure enough – ‘Indy Pub’ was listed as the publisher.

You can bet I will no longer be doing that. It’s mostly a vanity thing, but Anglotopia is pivoting to publishing more books, and we want to be the ‘publisher’, not the platform we’re using to actually print the books.

And when you use a service like Ingram or KDP and use their ISBN’s you’re locked into using them for printing copies. And if someone comes in for a bulk order, they would contact your publisher – you’d rather that be you directly instead of Ingram or KDP.

So, spend the $295 on 10 ISBNs. It’s a small investment up front but will pay off in the future as your little publishing house grows.

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