How to Get an ISBN for Your Book

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isbn How to Get an ISBN for Your Book

Pop quiz: What does a book need to be sold in bookstores and stocked in libraries? An International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

That 13-digit code above the barcode, commonly known as the ISBN, allows publishers, bookstores, libraries, and online bookstores to track all published books.

 How to Get an ISBN for Your Book

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

You don’t have to have an ISBN to be part of Blurb’s Set Your Price program and sell your book in the Blurb Bookstore, but if you’d like to sell your book in other outlets as well, you’ll need an ISBN.

Not only does an ISBN allow you to sell your book, it also promotes it. Having an ISBN enables your titles to be listed in Books in Print ®, an online catalogue that bookstores and libraries use as a resource when ordering new books or stocking their shelves.

How to Obtain and Implement Your ISBN

While Blurb does not currently issue ISBNs, we can talk you through the process of how to obtain one.

Here’s the scoop: ISBN’s are assigned by specific national agencies and which agency depends on the country in which you plan to publish in. To help you find the agency you’ll need to contact, the international ISBN Agency has provided an easy-to-navigate menu with list of the agencies and their contact information.

For example, in the United States, ISBN’s are bought through Bowker, the U.S. ISBN agency. They are sold in blocks of 1, 10, 100, 1000, or 10,000. The more you buy, the cheaper the price.

Why You Need More than One ISBN

We know you might be thinking, do I really need 10 or even 100 ISBN’s? Maybe yes, maybe no. Keep in mind, an ISBN is required for each edition of the book published. Let’s say you’re self-publishing one Blurb book, but you want to sell it as a hardcover, softcover and as an ebook. Each version would require a separate ISBN.

Now let’s assume you make a revision and want to print a second edition of your book in all three formats, that’s an additional three ISBNs. For those at home keeping score, that’s six ISBNs total for your first and second edition. So while it may seem to make sense to buy only one ISBN, it’s probably more cost effective in the long run to buy a bundle of 10 or more ISBNs.

How to Put Your ISBN on Your Blurb Book

The homestretch: implementation. To accompany your ISBN, you will need an ISBN EAN barcode before you are “officially” bookstore ready. The simplest way is to buy one directly from Bowker for US $ 25. Too rich for your blood? Watch this online tutorial on how to make barcodes for free with ID Automation software® using Microsoft Excel.

And big news! The latest version of Blurb BookSmart® lets you easily add your ISBN bar code to back cover to your book. For a complete how-to on using BookSmart to add your ISBN bar code, take a look at this blog post. Do all these things and it’s official – your book is ready for bestseller status.

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  1. Hi love the books!

    By Britzy
      August 29, 2012 – 3:37 am   Permalink
  2. I’ve seen very little on the forums about barcodes. But here are a couple of questions that cross my mind that you might be able to answer
    1.Once you have a barcode, there is no guarantee that any bookstore, online or otherwise is going to take it.
    2. Supposing that they do, then wouldn’t we just have to keep ordering from Blurb to ensure bookshelf presence. That would cost a fortune.
    3. Given that Print on demand books are so much more expensive than regularly published books, won’t reselling through Amazon/third parties be far too costly. For example: My 112 page L Square book from Blurb with premium paper and 15% profit for me costs about USD160, without mail charges. This price is already embarrassing. But, now let’s say it is taken up by Amazon – what’s the final price tag going to be, $300? Would love to hear of Blurb authors who have actual experience selling through bookstores, and whether it is really worth it.

    By Peter Oxley
      August 29, 2012 – 4:26 am   Permalink
  3. What this post does not address is how to put an ISBN number onto an ebook.

    As I understand it, once a book has been “published” as a paper book, the transition to e-book precludes any additions or changes.

    Let me know if I am wrong on this.

      August 29, 2012 – 6:16 am   Permalink
  4. I am so excited to see Blurb add this feature. Thank YOU.

    By Janis Shortridge
      August 29, 2012 – 6:45 am   Permalink
  5. Hey Peter,

    These are all good questions. I can’t really provide any answers here, since a lot of it’s theoretical, but I’ll be sure to forward your feedback on to our product team.



    By Kent
      August 29, 2012 – 9:54 am   Permalink
  6. Hey Janis, It’s not something we’re officially offering right now, but we wanted to make sure people know how to do this.



    By Kent
      August 29, 2012 – 10:16 am   Permalink
  7. Hey Susan,

    This is a good question. I’m not sure how to answer it right now, but it would make a good subject for a future blog post.



    By Kent
      August 29, 2012 – 10:17 am   Permalink
  8. Does this mean that you have to upload a separate version for each book type – softcover, hardcover and image wrap?

      August 29, 2012 – 11:56 am   Permalink
  9. Susan, on a ebook, all you need is to ass the ISBN on the copyright page of your ebook (if you have one) if you have a nearly identical physical version and ebook version, both needs to have their own ISBN, however, neither version requires that an ISBN has to be printed with the copy. As long as you have an ISBN registered for it, you’re good to go.

    By IvanLapis
      August 29, 2012 – 5:18 pm   Permalink
  10. Hey David,

    Not necessarily. You can actually include all the ISBNs on the copyright page. He’s a response from one of our book gurus who’s spent years in the book business:

    Having different ISBN’s included to the copyright page of a book is pretty standard in the publishing industry. Usually this happens when a book is re-issued in softcover, after having successful sales as a HC. They will list the new ISBN (for the softcover) but will also include the ISBN for the HC version. When a book is updated (which happens with textbooks and more), the ISBN will not change.

    Having three separate ISBN’s included to a title page might be slightly confusing, if not explained correctly.

    So, having the numbers appear as shown below will help:

    Hardcover, with a dust jacket edition: XXXXXXXXXXXXX (ISBN)
    ImageWrap edition: XXXXXXXXXXXXX (ISBN)
    Softcover edition: XXXXXXXXXXXXX (ISBN)

    By Kent
      August 30, 2012 – 11:35 am   Permalink
  11. Hi


    I have my book on Blurb as an E Book and POD

    I can easily put ISBN on e Book by using your editor! Then update?

    But how then would I get hold of the “file” for the book in order to say put it on Amazon??

    By Richard Unsworth
      August 31, 2012 – 3:50 am   Permalink
  12. hi, maybe i missed the point, but what does actually a block of say ten isbn registrations # cost?
    thanks, michael

    By michael snoek
      August 31, 2012 – 5:25 am   Permalink
  13. I was actually planning to get an ISBN for my book but when opting into the Set Your Proce for the e-book, one of the conditions in the agreement with Apple — which Blurb Support has told me is not yet enforced because the proposed partnership with Apple iBookstore is not yet in place — is that I cannot obtain my own ISBN because Apple will assign one to my book as a condition of having the book in their store. Can someone clarify this or correct me if I’ve misunderstood the T&Cs with Apple? I would very much like to promote my book more widely but this stipulation in the agreement and the delay with iBookstore is holding me back.

    By MS
      August 31, 2012 – 7:09 am   Permalink
  14. Hey Richard,

    Yes, the ebook editor should let you plop in an ISBN. In terms of editing the book cover with the ISBN, that’d be a good question for our Support Team:



    By Kent
      August 31, 2012 – 9:49 am   Permalink
  15. Hey MS,

    Ebooks have different ISBNs. They have eISBNs. And as I understand it, Apple does provide an eISBN, so all you’d need to worry about would be the print ISBN – which you could edit out of your ebook using our online ebook editor.



    By Kent
      August 31, 2012 – 9:53 am   Permalink
  16. Hey Michael,

    In the United States, 10 ISBN registrations is $250 through Given that one ISBN is $125, it’s a good savings.



    By Kent
      September 5, 2012 – 1:30 pm   Permalink
  17. You can self-publish your book on Amazon dot com and it is also assigned an ISBN number for free. Publishing it on Amazon is also free. Also you set your own price. The software to make your own cover is free. Everything at Amazon to self-publish your book and have it sold online is free. If you want your book to be on a list to sell at thousands of bookstores then you can pay a one time fee of $25 per book. However, it is listed on Amazon to purchase for free.

    By Joe
      September 5, 2012 – 9:14 pm   Permalink
  18. Hey Joe,

    Thanks for the info. In my experience, however, Amazon doesn’t provide nearly the range of tools (Blurb Bookify, Blurb BookSmart, Adobe Indesign plug-ins, MS Word add-in, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 integration, instant books from Instagram and Facebook) or the creative options that we do (five different papers, seven different book sizes, a choice of cover linens, etc.). That’s really what we’ve focused on, but we’re working on ways to help sellers get their books out there.



    By Kent
      September 6, 2012 – 11:08 am   Permalink
  19. since a different isbn number has to be present for a hardcover and paper trade binding how do you separate them on for proper purchase. do you publish it with one isbn under a hardcover copy and then publish it again as a paper trade binding with the a different isbn? will blurb acknowledge the difference if published under different book formats or will it be a waste of money because blurb wont decipher the difference?

    By Heath Cawood
      September 14, 2012 – 4:33 am   Permalink
  20. Hey Heath,

    It’s not a perfect solution, but see our comment above about listing all the ISBNs on the copyright page. We’re talking about how to make this work better.



    By Kent
      September 14, 2012 – 10:08 am   Permalink
  21. I purchased a ISBN/bar code from Bowker. It downloads from them as an “.eps” file. That is not a file format supported by BookSmart, so I cannot get the image to load into BookSmart so that it can go in the ISBN spot. How do I make that happen?

    By Scott
      January 1, 2013 – 4:55 pm   Permalink
  22. Hey Scott,

    The .eps file is a vector file format (meaning it can be instantly resized). However, as you point out, it needs to be a .jpg to be used in your book. The good news is that you can open up .eps files in a number of programs (including Apple’s free Preview tool), and then save it as a .jpg. If you’re on a PC, try using whatever the default program is for image viewing.



    By Kent
      January 3, 2013 – 3:25 pm   Permalink
  23. I am also fussing over ISBN numbers and bar codes. I have a copyrighted book, on a Microsoft document, with Blurb add in. Do any of you have a clue how I get my ISBN number with bar code (which was emailed to me) onto the back cover of my book, using this format? (It’s the same as Bookify, right?) Can’t find much on this. I tried taking a screen shot, pasting it into Microsoft paint and then uploading it. I can’t move the bar code image to the lower left corner, and I got a “poor resolution message.” Anyone have any experience doing it this way?

    By Barb Collins
      March 24, 2013 – 3:00 pm   Permalink
  24. Hey Barb,

    While we don’t have a perfect solution for this right now, here’s what we suggest: Your ISBN is likely an EPS file so you’ll first need to re-save it as a PNG. Then add it like any other image to the back cover in the cover creator after uploading the book. You will need to adjust the size within Bookify’s cover creator though, to the approximate sizing of the of how it should print.

    I’ll make sure to forward all this feedback on to our team.

    Thank you for making your books with us,


    By Kent
      March 25, 2013 – 1:25 pm   Permalink
  25. Thanks for the reply. I am a serious newbie. How would I go about saving it as a PNG file? Should I compress it? How? Help!

    By Barb Collins
      March 25, 2013 – 3:09 pm   Permalink
  26. Hey Barb,

    You should be able to open it in an image-editing program, and then simply save it as a png. Photoshop will do the job, but even something like MS Paint should be able to handle it.



    By Kent
      March 26, 2013 – 11:18 am   Permalink
  27. I appreciated the information on how to get ISBN numbers. But how do you “match” them up with each respective work?

      April 2, 2013 – 1:46 pm   Permalink
  28. Hey Monkeys Money,

    You will need to ‘publish’ a different book with its own ISBN for each cover type. But other than that, it should be pretty simple if you follow the directions laid out above.



    By Kent
      April 8, 2013 – 5:12 pm   Permalink
  29. I just recieved my ISBN No. It is a jpg. However, when i “get photo” from booksmart and try inserting it into the ISBN box, it is coming up a s a black screen. Please help?

    By Re
      October 18, 2013 – 7:18 am   Permalink
  30. Dear Sir/Madam,
    In our college we have introducing magazine for our department. So we have collect so many article s and choose some best article and make a book, we like to introduce as a ISBN code books and keep in inter- college library
    Give some suggestion

    By Dayanithi A
      October 30, 2013 – 9:45 am   Permalink
  31. Hey Re,

    Not sure what’s causing that, but our Support Team can help:

    By Kent
      October 30, 2013 – 10:49 am   Permalink
  32. Hi Blurb team,

    I’m a bit confused. I went ahead and purchased some ISBN’s and followed your link to make my own barcodes. However, the barcodes that I get don’t look anything like the example you have on this page (they’re far too long and only show the ISBN at the bottom). Is this normal? What should I be doing instead?

    By Charlie
      November 18, 2013 – 6:58 pm   Permalink
  33. Hey Charlie,

    Please take some screen shots and give our Support Team a shout. They can take a look and help you figure out what the difference is. Here’s where you can submit a ticket:



    By Kent
      November 22, 2013 – 3:34 pm   Permalink
  34. I want my book to grow higher and be a popular book in nigeria

      January 11, 2014 – 1:52 pm   Permalink
  35. Sir we are taken national conference for that we need ISBN ANY FEE CHARGES

    By Amol
      February 14, 2014 – 3:35 am   Permalink
  36. I’m sorry, Amol, but I’m not sure what you’re asking. At the moment though there are charges for ISBNs from these companies.

    By Kent
      February 24, 2014 – 1:43 pm   Permalink

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