Frequently Asked Questions

Please make use of this free ISBN FAQ from Bar Code Graphics.

What is an ISBN and how is it used?

ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number”. It is a unique identifier for books, eBooks, tapes, and DVDs. The ISBN numbering system is used worldwide and publishers around the globe identify their work in this standardized format. Each title or edition must be identified by a unique ISBN. In essence, the ISBN number is similar to a license plate which guarantees that each book type product is identified uniquely. The ISBN information is associated with titles (and metadata) in global databases.

Who assigns an ISBN?

The International ISBN Agency in the UK coordinates all ISBN allotments while individual group agencies assign ISBNs for each country. Every country has an organization which administers these numbers and the U.S. ISBN Agency is run by Bowker. Bar Code Graphics, Inc. has an agreement with the U.S. ISBN Agency and our Publisher Services division is able to act as an agent for small publishers and facilitate single ISBN assignments with a publisher’s name listed as the registrant (Personalized Publisher Program). Today, Publisher Services is now the largest authorized agent and provides the majority of ISBN assignments to self-publishers.

Do I have to have an ISBN?

This is a very common ISBN FAQ.  From the point of view of the international ISBN system, there is no legal requirement to have an ISBN and it conveys no legal or copyright protection. However, both brick and mortar and online booksellers in the U.S. require ISBN identification.

What happens if I decided to publish under a new publisher and ISBN?

Publications which are reprinted should carry the new listed publisher’s ISBN and the ISBN of the previous edition on the verso of the title page. Example: ISBN 978-0-07-212575-7 (previously ISBN 978-1-4978-2052-4)

What is the Bookland EAN barcode?

ISBN FAQ from Bar Code Graphics
Retailers and distributors require book products to carry a barcode which encodes the ISBN and pricing information. The Bookland EAN barcode is a standardized format which is accepted by trading partners worldwide. Our experience with barcodes enables us to provide our customers with symbols which comply with the GS1 guidelines and offer assistance with providing the appropriate format. Please note, a digital barcode is not needed on eBooks.

If you require only a Bookland EAN symbol, we encourage you to purchase ISBN Bookland barcode files from for only $10 each.

Can I reuse my ISBN?

Once an ISBN has been assigned to a title it can never be reused.

Can I use the same ISBN for both the physical book and eBook of the same title?

This is an ISBN FAQ we hear often.  Each format of a book requires its own unique ISBN assignment. Consequently, the ISBN on the printed book should not be used for the eBook. There is much debate on identifying different eBook formats (i.e. .epub and .mobi). The industry guidelines indicate each format type should carry its own ISBN. However, many publishers use a single ISBN to identify their eBooks since it is unlikely that the same marketplace will provide both versions.

I plan on selling my books through Kindle Direct Publishing (formerly Createspace). Which program should I choose?

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a Print-On-Demand (POD) service from Amazon. Their system requires users to either have an ISBN assigned in their company’s name or use a KDP-assigned ISBN. Clients who purchase our Personalized Publisher Program can utilize their ISBN number on both the books which they sell directly as well as those that are sold via the KDP/Amazon marketplaces. Clients who have already purchased an ISBN through the Independent Publisher Program need to have KDP assign a KDP assigned ISBN for those publications to be offered on their service.

Note: ISBNs assigned from Kindle Direct Publishing cannot be used to sell in any other marketplace, while the ISBNs assigned from our Personalized Publisher Program can be used across marketplaces. Since POD services, such as KDP, are geared toward printing individual books as they are sold, it is not economically feasible to use them to print large quantities.

If I make a change to my book, do I need to assign a new ISBN?

A new ISBN is not required for minor changes such as revising typographical errors and minor edits. A change in prices does not warrant a new ISBN but the Bookland EAN barcode on the back cover might need replacing if the price is encoded within the barcode.

ISBN FAQ continued

Is my book copyright protected if I get an ISBN?

This is one of the most frequent ISBN FAQs.  The ISBN is only an identifier and does not imply copyright protection. However, in the U.S., work is considered copyright protected as soon as it is created. Filing with the Copyright Office is optional but is helpful in situations which might require litigation.

Why buy an ISBN?

An ISBN enables a book/eBook to be discovered by potential customers and tracked by retailers/wholesalers. By assigning an ISBN to a title and having it listed on the Global Books in Print database, there is a greater likelihood that your book can be discovered by potential buyers. An ISBN is also crucial to point-of-sale and supply chain identification for inventory and sales recording.

How do I select a package?

Where you intend to sell your books will determine which package you should select. Around 90% of our clients select the Self-Publisher Package because they are primarily going to self-distribute their books. Publishers who intend to sell through distributors CreateSpace and large retailers will need to purchase the Publisher Package for $129 each.

Where do I enter my title data?

This is an ISBN FAQ our consultants hear frequently.  Client portals are used to manage all of your book title information and cover art (optional). After your order has been processed you will receive an email with your ISBN number assignment(s) and a link directly to a portal. All relevant title data is to be entered and managed through this application. This information is automatically uploaded to the Global Books in Print database.

How many ISBNs do I need?

Every format of a title requires a unique ISBN. For example, a title which is available as a paperback and an eBook would need two different ISBNs. Booksellers utilize unique ISBNs to distinguish which title/format is being sold and so they can track and consequently reorder replacements.

How do I get my barcode?

Clients who purchase the Self-Publisher Package will be able to automatically create their ISBN digital barcode file directly on the portal. Once the title and pricing information is entered, clients can receive their barcode files instantly. Clients who purchase the Publisher Package will receive their barcode files when they receive their ISBN assignment email.

We hope this ISBN FAQ was helpful and answered some of your questions.  Please contact us for any further assistance.