Decoding ISBNs: Where, Why, and How to get them.

Decoding ISBNs: Where, Why, and How to get them.

Every good fantasy book needs a secret code, right?

In this section, we'll cover two important questions:
  • What is an ISBN, and why do I need one?
  • Where can I get one?

What is an ISBN, and why do I need one?

A 13-digit ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is essentially your book’s identification code. It helps libraries, bookstores, and retailers sort, organize, and track your product, similar to the barcode you’d find on ordinary products in any kind of store. If you’re looking to have your book stocked in libraries and bookstores, an ISBN is an absolute must. However, if you’re looking only to publish an ebook without a paperback and sell it online, it may not be completely necessary.

Where can I get one?

  • Free option:

If you are publishing through Amazon KDP, they will offer you the option of providing a free ISBN. If you are planning to remain exclusive to Amazon, this option could work well for you. However, the catch is, the ISBN provided by Amazon can only be used in their store. If you want to publish to other retailers as well, such as Barnes and Noble, Nook, Apple, or anywhere else, you’ll need to obtain an additional ISBN, which can get a bit messy.

Another catch that comes with Amazon’s free ISBN is that on your book’s information page, your publisher details will be listed as “Independently published,” which means that everyone checking out your book, whether customer or bookstore, will know that it was self-published. While ordinary readers may or may not care who published a book, most bookstores will certainly think twice before stocking an “independently published” book.

Draft to Digital (D2D) also provides a free, in-house ISBN to those who choose to publish their ebook through them.

  • Paid Option:

If you are considering “going wide,” meaning publishing across all bookstores and online retailers, buying a single ISBN for your book might be the better option. You’d be able to list yourself or your company name as the publisher, instead of the book listing “Independently published,” which could give your book a more professional appearance.

The big downside here is the price. There is only one place to by U.S. ISBNs, Bowker, and they are terribly overpriced! Bowker charges $125 for a single ISBN,

$295 for ten, or $575 for 100.

If you are planning on publishing a series of more than one book, then the medium option could work for you, averaging $30 per book. If you just want to publish a single book, the price is pretty outrageous, but unfortunately, that’s the only option out there. You can purchase ISBNs through Bowker at this link:

Paid Option


  • Can use across multiple platforms
  • Label your own publisher


  • Very High Prices!

Free Option


  • Free!


  • Limited to single platform
  • "Independently published" label

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