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How to Get an ISBN Number for Free and Buy ISBNs

You will learn everything you need to know about ISBN. This ultimate guide is prepared by a book marketing and publishing expert for first time authors. You can also benefit from this guide even if you are a published author.

The ISBN is a unique identifier for books that is assigned to each title by the publisher. You can use the ISBN to track sales and find out where your book is being sold. ISBN numbers are an internationally recognized form of identification for books. They are created by the International Organization for Standardization to identify different editions and formats of a book.

An ISBN number is made up of 13 digits, and it starts with the country code followed by the publisher code, followed by the title code followed by any other codes that represent specific information about the book. An ISBN is used by retailers, libraries, and other book-related organizations to track and identify books.

For authors and book publishers, having an ISBN is crucial for several reasons. First, it makes it easier for potential readers to find and purchase their books. When a book is listed with a retailer like Amazon or Barnes & Noble, the ISBN is used to identify the book and its associated metadata, such as the author, title, and publisher. This makes it easier for readers to discover new books and for authors to market their works.

Second, having an ISBN can help with distribution and inventory management. When books are sold through traditional bookstores or libraries, the ISBN is used to track sales and inventory levels. This allows publishers to better manage their supply chain and ensure that books are in stock and available for purchase.

How to get an ISBN number for free

There are two ways to get an ISBN number for free.

First, you can get an ISBN number from a self-publishing platform or a book publisher. Self-publishing platform such as Amazon KDP provide free ISBN to each print book publishing. These free ISBN come with their limitation, but if you are a first time independent author, and if you just want to sell your book on one platform, then you don’t need to worry. You can use Amazon KDP ISBN without any problem.

There are book publishing companies that help authors self-publish their books through print on-demand service. These hybrid or self-publishing companies charge upfront fees for book publishing. You also get a free ISBN with their book publishing package. Bookbaby, iUniverse and Bookllo Publishing are few known book self-publishing companies.

Second, You can get an ISBN from your ISBN agency. This depends on your country’s nationalities. Some countries offer ISBN to their citizens for free. Countries such as Canada, India, Pakistan, Thailand offer free ISBNs to their citizens. You have to provide proof of citizenship, full address, name and more information to obtain an ISBN from a nationalized ISBN agency. Nationalized ISBN agency also takes longer, up to a few weeks to process an ISBN application. They verify each ISBN application manually and if there is a mistake in the application, then you will have to reapply. ISBN agency in countries such as the United States and UK are not nationalized, it’s for profit organization.

If you are not sure about your country’s ISBN agency, then do a research to find your local ISBN agency. Visit the website of your country’s ISBN agency.

Register for an account on the agency’s website. You’ll need to provide some basic information, such as your name, email address, and the name of your publishing company. It’s depends on the local ISBN agency. For example, the Canadian ISBN agency requires you to have a registered company to obtain an ISBN. If you are an individual author in Canada, then you are out of luck.

Navigate to the page for ISBN registration. This may be labeled differently depending on the agency, but it should be easy to find on the website.

Enter the required information about your publication, including the title, author, publisher, and format (e.g. paperback, ebook, audiobook).

Submit your application. You may need to wait several days or weeks to receive your ISBN, depending on the agency’s processing times.

It’s worth noting that there may be limitations on how many free ISBNs you can obtain, and there may be restrictions on how you can use them. For example, in the India, you can only obtain one free ISBN per title at a time. Additionally, free ISBNs may have use restriction, please read your ISBN agency guidelines.

Buying an ISBN

While it’s possible to obtain an ISBN for free through certain countries ISBN agencies and self-publishing platform, there are some situations where it may make more sense to buy an ISBN instead. Here are a few reasons why someone might choose to buy an ISBN:

They plan to publish multiple books

If you’re an author or publisher who plans to publish more than one book, buying an ISBN in bulk can be a cost-effective way to manage your publishing process. With a purchased ISBN, you can maintain consistent branding and metadata across all of your publications, which can make it easier for readers to discover and purchase your books.

They want more control over their ISBN

When you obtain a free ISBN, it may come with certain restrictions on how you can use it or who you can assign it to. By purchasing an ISBN, you have more control over how it’s used and who it’s assigned to. Moreover, you get better customer support and receive ISBN instantly.

They plan to sell their book in certain markets

Book publishers and authors have to follow guidelines of ISBN agencies that offer free ISBN to their citizens. Each nationalized ISBN agency has their guidelines that limit how and where a book should be published. But a for-profit ISBN agency has less restriction and faster processing time.

To buy an ISBN through a for-profit ISBN agency.

Visit the ISBN agency website and select the number of ISBNs you want to buy. Prices vary depending on the ISBN agency and how many you buy at once, with discounts available for larger orders.

Provide the required information about your book and publishing name, such as the title, author, and format. You may also be able to purchase additional services, such as barcode creation or copyright registration.

Pay for your ISBNs and any additional services you’ve selected.

Once your order is processed, you’ll receive your ISBNs in a few minutes or hours. If you purchase multiple ISBN at once, then you need to enter metadata about your book manually for each ISBN. This is called ISBN assignment. You need to assign an ISBN to your specific book format before publishing.

You can then use the ISBN to list your book with retailers, libraries, and other book-related organizations.

The cost of buying an ISBN varies depending on the agency and the number of ISBNs you purchase. For example, as of April 2023, ISBN in the US cost $125 for a single ISBN, but the price drops to $295 for 10 ISBNs and $575 for 100 ISBNs. While buying an ISBN can be a significant upfront cost, it may be a worthwhile investment for self-published authors who plan to publish multiple books or who want more control over their publishing process.

If you are on a tight budget, then you might consider buying an ISBN from a third-party ISBN seller that offers you the same ISBN at a low cost with extra benefits.


In conclusion, obtaining an ISBN is an important part of the publishing process for authors and publishers. It helps to identify and distinguish their work in the market and makes it easier for readers, retailers, and libraries to discover and purchase the books.

While some countries offer free ISBNs through their national agencies, there may be limitations on how many you can obtain and how you can use them. Buying an ISBN can be a good investment if you plan to publish multiple books or want more control over your publishing process.


How many digits are in an ISBN?

There are 13 digits in an ISBN. 10 digits of ISBN are outdated version and were used before 2007.

What is the format of an ISBN?

The format of an ISBN is a 13-digit number that is divided into five parts, each separated by hyphens. For Example, 978-3-16-148410-0

How can I get an ISBN?

You can get an ISBN from your national ISBN agency. Each country has its own one official ISBN Agency. Bowker is a US-based ISBN Agency. You can also get an ISBN from a book publisher or purchase an ISBN from a third part reseller such as

Who assigns ISBNs?

ISBNs are assigned by a book publisher or self-publishing platform. Book publishers obtain ISBN from an ISBN agency. If you are self-publishing your book, then you can get an ISBN from the Agency directly or purchase an ISBN from a third-party reseller at low cost.

What is the purpose of an ISBN?

The purpose of an ISBN is to identify a specific book and its edition, and to provide a standard way for booksellers, libraries, and other organizations to track and manage books.

Who is eligible for ISBNs?

Publishers, self-publishers, and other organizations that produce books or other publishing materials are eligible for ISBNs. Publishing material such as print books, research articles, essays, CD, audiobook, conferences, and magazines.

What do I need to obtain an ISBN?

To obtain an ISBN, you typically need to provide information about the book, such as its title, author, and format, as well as information about the publisher or organization including the full address that is producing the book. You have to submit this information to an ISBN agency. You also have to provide payment info for ISBN purchase in case your ISBN agency charges a fee for obtaining ISBNs.

Does ISBN provide copyright protection?

No, an ISBN does not provide copyright protection. ISBN is just an identification number of a book. Copyright protection must be obtained separately and registered with a copyright registration office for extra protection.

How much does it cost to get an ISBN?

The cost of getting an ISBN varies depending on the country and agency that you apply to, but it typically ranges from free to a few hundred dollars. Please do research to find the ISBN agency in your country.

How long does it take to get an ISBN?

The time it takes to get an ISBN varies depending on the country and agency that you apply to, but it can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. ISBN agency that charge a fee for ISBNs usually provide ISBN instantly. Those that do for free require verification, and it takes a few days to weeks.

Do I need an ISBN for an ebook?

Yes, but it also depends on the publishing platform. ISBN is optional for publishing ebook on Amazon KDP. But if you want to publish your ebook on multiple platforms such as Google Play, Apple Books, then you must have an ISBN.

Do I need an ISBN for a self-published book?

Yes, if you plan to sell your self-published book through retailers or distribute it to libraries, you will need an ISBN.

Can I use the same ISBN for different editions of my book?

No, you should use a new ISBN for each edition of your book. If you are a self publisher and want to revise your book, then you don’t need an ISBN. Just upload the revised version of your book to a publishing platform.

What information is included in an ISBN?

An ISBN includes information about the book’s publisher, title, author’s name, edition, and format.

How do I search for a book using its ISBN?

You can search for a book using its ISBN on Google or bookseller, library websites.

Can an ISBN be used to track book sales?

Yes, an ISBN can be used to track book sales. It also depends on your book publishing platform. Book sales data is not available publicly. There is only one company that keeps record of all book sales using its ISBN, that is Nielsen BookScan. But, it’s not free.

How do I know if an ISBN is valid?

You can check if an ISBN is valid by contacting the ISBN agency that issued the ISBN. There is no official online ISBN checker or validator available. You can do a Google search to see whether ISBN has been used with some publication or not. Or, you can simply try using it to publish your book, if your ISBN get accepted by the platform, then it’s valid.

Can I change my book ISBN after publishing?

No, ISBN cannot be changed once the book is published. However, you can unpublish and republish your book using a different ISBN. Note, ISBN is not reusable once it is used, even after unpublishing a book.

How do I update the information associated with my ISBN?

ISBNs are issued to a publisher, not a book. An ISBN is assigned to a book by the publisher. Once your book is published, you don’t need to do anything, even something change to your book.

How long is an ISBN valid for?

An ISBN does not expire and is valid for the lifetime.

What is an ISSN?

An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is a unique identifier for a serial publication, such as a magazine or journal.

What is an Imprint Name?

An imprint name is the name under which a publisher publishes a book. It could be the name of the book publishing company, a division inside the company, or an author name.

What is the Difference between ISBN and ISSN?

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is used to identify a specific book and its edition, while ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is used to identify a specific serial publication, such as a magazine or journal.

What is the Difference between Free and paid ISBN?

Some self-publishing platforms such as Amazon KDP provide free ISBN to authors. But a free ISBN comes with limitations such as you can’t use outside the platform that issued the ISBN, you can’t use your own imprint name, hard to transfer book rights and more. You solve all this by using a paid ISBN or ISBN that you obtain from an ISBN agency.

What is the Difference between ISBN and ASIN?

ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique identifier for a specific book and its edition, while ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) is a unique identifier for a product sold on Amazon, including books. While an ISBN is used universally to identify a book, an ASIN is specific to Amazon’s product catalog only.

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