Okay, we all know what ISBNs are, right?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It’s usually found running over the top of the barcode on the back of a book, and also listed inside, somewhere in the front matter.

An ISBN is assigned to each separate edition and variation of a book. They’re thirteen digits long and it’s worth noting – if you publish through Amazon, you don’t need your own ISBNs. Amazon will assign you numbers, so it’s all good. You can, however, use your own if you have them.

However, from what I’m told, if you want to get into high street bookshops, you will need your own ISBNs. It’s worth checking but most high street shops don’t stock independently published works but if you have your own ISBNs, you’re marked out as a publisher, rather than a self-publisher.

That said, if you plan to publish on platforms other than Amazon, like Nook and Kobo, you’re probably better off having your own numbers.

So, where do you get ISBNs?

America has its own situation. Sometimes, there are sales where you can buy a block of ISBNs for a reduced price. In the UK, Nielsen is the ISBN agency I’ve heard most about. However, I have not bothered to buy my own ISBNs. You might wonder why.

Equally you might not.

If you want to follow the link, https://www.nielsenisbnstore.com/Home/Isbn, you’ll see how much a block of ISBN numbers costs. It’s not just that that puts me off, although there is that.

Mostly, I don’t much care about putting my books into high street bookshops right away. I totally understand the boost it would provide to see your own work sitting up on a shelf alongside famous authors – but I have bookshelves in my house for that. Also, I read somewhere that if a book isn’t selling, a bookshop will just remove it. Which makes sense. It would just be taking up space that could be used for something that makes money. I get that. But I can’t bear the idea of my books being returned for not selling. True, the boost of seeing them on a shelf would be tremendous. The devastation of seeing them disappear and not return would be huge.

Important to note – if you’re publishing through Amazon, whether in print or digital format, using an Amazon ISBN will not cause you to lose your rights.

Basically, it all comes down to choice, and the choice is yours. There’s a lot of information out there on the old internet.

Whether you decide to buy ISBNs or take the free ones from Amazon, know this: it’s a decision only you can make and you’re brilliant. You’ve got this.