If you are planning to self-publish your book, you might be wondering if you need an ISBN and how to get one. An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number, a unique identifier that helps your book be discoverable in the global supply chain. It also indicates the physical properties of your book, such as the trim size, page count, and binding type.
You might think that getting an ISBN is a complicated and expensive process, but it’s actually quite simple and affordable. In fact, if you publish your paperback book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can get an ISBN for free. Sounds like a great deal, right?
Well, not so fast. Before you accept Amazon’s free ISBN, you should know that there are some drawbacks and limitations that come with it. In this blog post, I will explain why you should buy your own ISBN instead of using Amazon’s free one, and how to do it.
What is the difference between an ISBN and an ASIN?
First of all, let’s clarify the difference between an ISBN and an ASIN. An ASIN is an Amazon Standard Identification Number, a 10-digit alphanumeric code that Amazon assigns to every product on its platform, including books. You can find the ASIN of your book in the product details section of your book page on Amazon.
An ASIN is not the same as an ISBN, and it does not replace it. An ASIN only works on Amazon and its marketplaces, and it does not identify the physical properties of your book. An ISBN, on the other hand, works for the entire global supply chain, and it identifies a specific book or edition of a book. An ISBN is also required by many retailers, distributors, and libraries to order and stock your book.
You do not need an ISBN to publish an ebook on KDP, but you will need an ISBN to publish a paperback on KDP. You have the option of getting a free ISBN from Amazon, or buying your own ISBN from Bowker, the official ISBN agency in the US.
What are the disadvantages of using Amazon’s free ISBN?
You might be tempted to use Amazon’s free ISBN to save some money and hassle, but there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of. Here are the main ones:
- You will not be listed as the publisher of your book. If you use Amazon’s free ISBN, KDP or Amazon will be listed as the publisher of your book, not you or your imprint. This can make you look less professional and credible, and it can also affect your royalties and rights. You will still own the copyright of your book, but you will not have full control over your publishing decisions.
- You will not be able to use your ISBN with another publisher or self-publishing service. If you use Amazon’s free ISBN, you will be locked into KDP for distribution. You will not be able to use your ISBN with another publisher or self-publishing service, such as IngramSpark, Lulu, or BookBaby. This means that you will not be able to take advantage of the wider distribution and marketing opportunities that these services offer. You will also not be able to switch or transfer your ISBN if you decide to change your publishing platform in the future.
- You will not be able to sell your book to other retailers or libraries. If you use Amazon’s free ISBN, you will be limited to selling your book on Amazon and its marketplaces. You will not be able to sell your book to other retailers or libraries, such as Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google Play, or your local library. Even if you sign up for KDP’s expanded distribution, which allows your book to be available to other online retailers and libraries, you will not have much success. This is because most bookstores and libraries do not buy books from Amazon, due to their competitive pricing and policies. They prefer to buy books from Ingram, the largest book distributor in the world, which requires your own ISBN.
How to buy your own ISBN and why it’s worth it
As you can see, using Amazon’s free ISBN comes with some serious drawbacks and limitations that can affect your book’s success and your publishing goals. That’s why I recommend that you buy your own ISBN instead of using Amazon’s free one. Buying your own ISBN will give you more freedom, flexibility, and credibility as a self-published author, and it will also open up more opportunities for your book’s distribution and exposure.
Buying your own ISBN is not difficult or expensive. You can buy your own ISBN from Bowker, the official ISBN agency in the US, for $125 for a single ISBN, or $295 for 10 ISBNs. You can also buy ISBNs from other countries, depending on where you live and where you want to sell your book. You can find more information about ISBNs and how to buy them on the official ISBN website.
Once you buy your own ISBN, you will be able to provide it to KDP during your title setup, and use it for any other publisher or self-publishing service that you want. You will also be able to list yourself or your imprint as the publisher of your book, and have full control over your publishing decisions. You will also be able to sell your book to other retailers and libraries, and make it more discoverable and accessible to readers around the world.
Buying your own ISBN is a small investment that can make a big difference for your book’s success and your publishing career. It will show that you are serious and professional about your book, and that you care about your readers and their experience. It will also give you more options and opportunities to reach and serve your target audience, and to achieve your publishing goals.
So, don’t settle for Amazon’s free ISBN. Buy your own ISBN instead, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of being a self-published author.
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