• Tiffany Obeng

ISBNs and Barcodes! Oh my!

Okay, so by now if you've joined a Facebook children book authors group (suggested in my previous blog post) and done any Google searches, you have seen the letters I S B N. Before becoming a published author, I knew about barcodes (or thought I did) but never really paid much attention to the string of numbers that accompany the barcode and can be found inside or outside the book. But then one day while scrolling through the endless and much appreciated guidance from the Facebook group, I saw someone asking about ISBNs. I zeroed in on the responses and was still confused. Did this apply to me? Do I have to buy it or is it provided? Where do I get it? Why do I need it? How many do I need?


Luckily, I was able to find the answers to all my questions. First. Yes, an ISBN is required for the publication of any and all books. So if I planned to publish, then I needed to plan to acquire an ISBN. Which leads to the next point, did I have to buy? I soon learned that the answer to this question is "Yes"..."No"...and as a true lawyer would say, "It depends." Certain printing companies, such as Amazon KDP or Create Space, provide an ISBN (referred to as ASIN) for free! But do not celebrate just yet. These free ISBNs are exclusive to the company (e.g. KDP or Create Space), which means the ISBN cannot be used on any books sold on any other platform. So, no libraries, book stores or other online platforms. To sell your book outside of Amazon, for example, you would have to purchase an ISBN anyway. This results in having multiple ISBNs for one book format, which is super confusing and avoidable. Also, not as important but should be noted, having your book stamped with a free ISBN is a huge symbol of self-publishing. So, of course, I decided to skip the freebie and buy an ISBN.


Okay, that's great, but where do I buy an ISBN? Well, back to my Facebook group I went and I quickly learned that the answer was quite easy. Finally, something easy 😀. Bowkers is the only recognized ISBN seller for all of the United States and they offer bulk orders as low as 10 as well as single purchase orders. I received excellent guidance that it is more cost effective to purchase in bulk ($250 for 10 vs. $89 for 1) and since I was planning to publish my book in multiple formats (i.e., hardback, paperback, e-book ) then I would need a different ISBN for each. And because I had already convinced and committed myself to doing a book series (i.e., Andrew Career Day Book series) then yes, a bulk order of ISBNs was my best bet. Caveat: While e-books do not generally require an ISBN, it is advised to assign an ISBN to an e-book anyway especially if you plan to market your e-book outside of Amazon.


Now, with all of this ISBN talk, what is an ISBN anyway? The ISBN and its string of numbers all have a meaning and purpose. Go here to learn more, https://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/09/self-publishing-basics-isbn/.

See, we learn something new every day!


Now knowing "everything" I needed to know about ISBNs, I went to purchase my bulk order of 10 ISBNs. As I began checking out, Bowkers offered to convert my ISBNs into barcodes for only $25 per ISBN!

So many questions raced through my mind: Do I need to convert? If I do not convert, then how will I get the barcode? If I do need to convert to barcode, will I be able to change my book price? Oh lawd! 😮 After more research, I quickly and confidently learned that barcodes are in fact provided by all printing companies and the companies pull the information from Bowkers. Ah ha! So it turns out Bowkers was simply trying to up-sell me and drive me, dare I say, Bonkers! 🤣🤣


In a nutshell,

  • Buy your own ISBN(s),

  • Buy in bulk,

  • Buy from Bowkers, and

  • You do NOT have to convert your ISBNs into barcodes.

Man, where was I when I started on this journey 😅


(Oh shoot!🤦🏽‍♀️ I made it all the way through my blog post with no segue to my podcast Spoiler Alert! With Tiff O & Riki 🤭)

238 views1 comment

Recent Posts

See All