How to obtain ISBN numbers

Written by andrea helaine
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An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) uses the metric system to help distinguish books. The unique nine-digit ISBN identification number helps to identify the book publisher for inventory systems and online databases. Although a book may be distributed without an ISBN when self-published, this is normally rectified if you want to sell your book in bookstores or online. If you decide to self-publish, you will need to know how to obtain an ISBN number.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Credit or debit card

Show MoreHide


  1. 1

    Go to the ISBN web site and go to "Order ISBNs". Applications are available in English and Spanish. Click on the application information and you will have a page that gives you an option to apply for a single ISBN number or a block of ISBN numbers. You will prepare your application on a secure server if you submit online. You will need to enter your e-mail address and retype the address for verification. Once this information is entered, you will need to enter your credit card information.

  2. 2

    Submit your application. Once it is processed, you will be e-mailed your ISBN numbers and your user name and password for Bowker Bar Code Service. This is the web site where publishers request a bar code for the back of their book.

  3. 3

    Prepare your book so it includes the ISBN on both the copyright page and the back cover.

Tips and warnings

  • If you choose to submit your application via paper, you will need to submit an additional £32 processing charge for manual processing.
  • Avoid requesting an ISBN before you have the copyright through the U.S. Copyright Office.

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