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How to Get an ISBN


An ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is an identification code associated with commercial books. You usually find the number above the barcode on the back cover or on the copyright page inside. They are used for both print and e-books, although the latter does not always use an ISBN when shared through online platforms like Amazon only.

What Is an ISBN?

If you wrote a book and want to publish it for sale, you should get an ISBN. They are unique to a specific title or edition of that title. In other words, if you publish a book this year and then change it and publish it in a different format (i.e., ebook and paperback), you will need a different ISBN for each one. Modern codes have 13 digits with four parts that coincide with origination countries, publishers, titles, and other data.

Where Can You Get an ISBN in Australia?

The only place to get an ISBN in Australia is from the Thorpe-Bowker organization. In fact, Bowker is the only official source for them in many parts of the world. In total, 160 different ISBN agencies exist around the globe. If you live and publish in a different country, you must look at the official registrar and exclusive agent for that location. No matter what, they make it quite convenient to order your own at an affordable price.

The website for an application is

Once you are on that website, simply navigate to the ISBN page, fill in all necessary information for the individual books you want to publish, pay your fee, and receive the numbers. You can purchase a single ISBN for $44 or a pack of 10 for $88. If you plan to publish a lot, get 100 for $480 instead. Realize that you will need a separate ISBN for each format of the book you publish. Therefore, you will need one for an e-book and a separate one for a printed paperback.

Besides the charge for the individual numbers themselves, new publishers will need to remit $55 the first time the place in order for registration purposes. There is also an option to buy barcodes and QR plus codes at the same time for additional charges.

Why Do You Need an ISBN?

In truth, you do not need an ISBN to offer a book for sale online. If you write something and simply want to sell it to your own website or a subscription newsletter, for example, there is really no need to get this product code. However, selling a book this way is not your best option in most cases. Most self-publishers want to offer their novel or nonfiction book on major retail sites and ecommerce platforms. In order to do this, you need an ISBN.

What can ISBN do to help your book?

  • Identify the publisher of the book easily
  • Allows for listing in distribution catalogs and databases
  • Makes it easier to sell in stores and on Internet platforms
  • Helps readers find your book to purchase
  • Ensures it is listed in the Books in Print collection

It is important to note that getting one of these numbers does not have anything to do with official copyright. In Australia and many other countries, any written or otherwise created content is automatically copyrighted as soon as it exists. In other words, you own the stories you write legally as soon as you write them. There is no need to officially register here, although this option exists in the United States and elsewhere around the world for legal defensibility purposes.

Can You Use a Free Option Instead?

Some online retailers like the Amazon publishing platform offer a free ISBN when you publish an e-book through them. However, these can be used on that website itself and do not transfer to any other sales venue. Also, some may not offer them to Australian self-publishers. Therefore, it is very important to do proper research to figure out if your book qualifies for one or not.

Since the process of getting an ISBN is quite simple and affordable, it makes sense to order a unique 13-digit code for every book you publish. This gives you full control over where you sell the product and registration opportunities on digital book repositories and common distributors. Self-publishers and small publishing houses alike need to understand how to get an ISBN in order to maximize sale potential for their books.

If you want to know more look at our publishing courses (self or otherwise) or editing courses.

how to get an isbn.

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