Dara Publishing

ISBN and Why It Matters

ISBN and Why It Matters

Whether you are an aspiring author seeking publication or an avid reader of books or periodicals, you’ve probably come across this acronym before: ISBN. You may have seen the string of numbers that follow and not thought much about it after that. Those numbers, however, are not random but rather important and tell you a lot about a book.  Firstly, what is an ISBN?  ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a 13-digit number used by publishers, booksellers, and librarians to identify published books worldwide. Your book has its own unique number, and it’s the only one in the world. Think of it like an ID or barcode for your book. 

ISBN and Why It Matters

This number lets everyone know that your book exists, and they can find it using this number. So now that you understand a little bit more about it, you may wonder how you can get an ISBN for your book. Do we assign it ourselves? Where does it come from? Well, there are plenty of ways to obtain an ISBN, but there are two main ways to go about it:

1) You can either buy your own (from a legitimate source), or

2) you can get one from a publisher. 

Relying on Other Publishers

You can rely on bigger publishing companies—such as print-on-demand, or POD, publishers—to get your ISBN for you. If you publish an eBook on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), for example, they will give you an ISBN or an Amazon Standard Identification Number (ASIN). The latter works the same as an ISBN, albeit it is unique to Amazon KDP only.  Now, that sounds great, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows if you rely on a publisher’s ISBN. By doing so, you limit yourself from a world of opportunity. This is why we recommend purchasing your own ISBN. 

Obtaining Your Own ISBN

Having your own ISBN allows you a greater degree of control over your book. You see, if you publish your book using your own ISBN, you will be listed as one of the publishers, unlike an ISBN from another publisher, which will be registered under the publishing company’s name.  

Why does this matter, you ask? Well, for starters, the reputation of the publishing company might not suit the type of book you are trying to publish. Just imagine you have written a well-researched book about a historical event. You care deeply about the subject matter, and you want more people to read your book and learn about it. But the publishing company you chose is better known for publishing fanfiction and adult novels! That would be a disaster on your end.

ISBN and Why It Matters

Bookstores and other distributing companies may judge your book based on the way it was published, which causes you to miss out on thousands of potential sales! Another advantage to having your own ISBN is that it allows you to use it on different retail platforms, unlike an Amazon KDP number, which can only be used on Amazon.  Lastly, having your own ISBN allows you more control over its metadata. This enables you to put your book into the categories where it belongs, instead of letting another company determine the fate of your book.

How can I get an ISBN?

Getting an ISBN may sound intimidating at first, but once you know where to go, it becomes easier to manage. Purchasing your own ISBN may vary from country to country, so make sure to research yours. But for those in the USA, you can purchase an ISBN online from Bowker, wherein you can buy a single ISBN or a bulk of 10 ISBNs at once.


Before we go, we must debunk the most common misconception about ISBNs:  ISBNs for physical books and eBooks are different. Some assume that the ISBN for their paperback can be used for their eBook, but that is not so. You need to get another one for your eBook and vice versa. 


If you want to save yourself the effort and don’t mind other publishers taking the credit, then you are free to rely on other publishers to obtain your ISBN. However, if you want more control over your book’s fate on the bookshelves, whether physically or digitally, then getting your own ISBN is much more sensible.  This route allows you more freedom and control over your books and is far more advantageous if you plan to self-publish. You get to take credit for publishing your book and not miss out on the opportunities that come from it. So, what are you waiting for? Go get that ISBN for your book now!