Tuesday, January 20, 2009

We have a lot of customers inquiring about if they need an ISBN number and Bar Code for their books. While we posted about this topic before, I think it’s important enough to reprint the original posting here:

Do I need an ISBN Number and/or a Bar Code? The answer to that depends upon your needs. Let’s start with the ISBN Number. You are not legally required to have an ISBN number. It simply depends upon if and how you are going to sell your book. So, if you are selling your book through workshops, direct mail or through the Internet, you most likely will NOT need an ISBN number or Bar Code.

If you plan to sell your books through retail chains, specialty stores or catalogs, (Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, etc.) you will most likely be required by the reseller to obtain an ISBN number for your book for inventory and general ordering purposes.

Here's Why: An ISBN number identifies a book title or edition from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, meaning that it can never be reused. This also means that if you sell both a hard copy and a soft cover of your book, you must have two unique ISBN numbers.

The ISBN itself is a 10-digit number that is divided into four parts separated by hyphens. The first part of the ISBN is a group or country identifier. The second part is a publisher identifier. The third part is a title identifier. The last digit is a check digit used to validate the ISBN. In other words, the ISBN is a code that identifies your book around the world. You can apply for an ISBN number by contacting Bowker, who is the U.S. broker for ISBN numbers.

Now for the Universal Product Code (UPC), also known as the Bar Code. This is a computerized product identification system. Your ISBN Number is NOT the same thing as your Bar Code. Most retail chains require both a ISBN Number and Bar Code. However, the ISBN Number can be translated into bar code format. When you purchase your ISBN number through Bowker, you can also purchase the Bar Code, or you can find a list of UPC Code (or Bar Code) suppliers here.

ISBN Numbers and UPC Codes and their costs.

Bowker is the U.S. broker of ISBN numbers. This is the place to go to get your number. Usually, Bowker sells numbers in blocks of 10, for approximately $250, or a cost of $25 per book. This price also includes the UPC Code (Bar Code) which you will also need. If you don't wish to purchase ISBN Numbers in blocks of 10, you can purchase a single ISBN. However, it's not as easy and it is not as cost effective. You have to call Bowker directly at 877-310-7333 and request a faxed application for $125.00. I haven't yet been able to find the form downloadable from their site. Additionally, this cost of $125.00 is for the ISBN number only and you have to purchase the bar codes separately for a cost of $25.00.

You don't have to purchase the bar code from Bowker though, there are other options available. If you want to do it yourself, there is a whole list of ISBN software available online for generating your own codes, or you can try companies such as Bar Code Graphics that will create the bar code image for you for about $10.

On a final note, you may also want to consider registering your book with Bowker's directory "Books in Print". This is their master list of all books available. Oddly enough, when you buy your ISBN number from Bowker, you aren't automatically registered into their master list.


Jerry Gotkin said...

When I first visited Picturia Press' website a year ago, I received an instant tutorial concerning the ISBN number, little knowing that one year later I would be calling on Suzzanne Connolly and Picturia Press for vital assistance in acquiring them. Picturia Press has designed and created five art books and a magnificent new website for Gotkinarts. It is indeed a full-service creative and technical source for professional artists. The five books, now with their ISBN numbers, are being sent to the Smithsonian Institution's American Museum/Portrait Gallery libraries for inclusion. Each step of the way of a complicated process, Suzzanne has been able to not only offer her expertise, but has been able to make sound suggestions for the completion of each job. The advantages are so great for a professional artist to have this great professional service.
Jerry Gotkin