How to Purchase ISBN Numbers

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is made up of 13 digits which identifies the product as a book and establishes it’s country of origin. The ISBN is what distinguishes you as a publisher and identifies your book in all online inventory systems used worldwide. Search engines and bookstores identify and classify books using the ISBN. Bowker is the only official ISBN agency for the United States, so an ISBN has to be bought through this company.

Determine your need for an ISBN. If you are selling books on your own and are not planning on placing them in a book store, library or with a wholesaler then you do not need an ISBN. If you plan on marketing with any of these distribution methods then you will need the ISBN. Certain types of publications are eligible for ISBN´s while others aren’t. Check the Bowker guidelines to make sure your publication is eligible (See Resources).


Visit the Bowker Identifier Services Website (See Resources) and decide on the package you wish to purchase. As of June 2010 prices start at £81. You can choose either the Standard package, Premium Package, or the Large Publishers package.

Choose the standard package to obtain an ISBN and a custom web page which is Search Engine Optimized for the title of your book and get listed on for free when you use the free Bowker Link service to upload book information like your price, page count, and distribution method.

Choose the premium package to get all the standard package features, but this package gives you full reports and analytics on your book marketing affiliate programs. This package also offers free affiliate links codes, full text previews, and an interactive widget which allows friends to easily e-mail others about the book offer.

Click on the purchase you wish to make and supply your credit or debit card information. Opt to pay by check if you do not wish to pay online. However, obtaining your ISBN will take 15 to 30 days, if you make your purchase by check. Complete your purchase.

Use the ISBN image Bowker e-mails or sends you in GIF or JPG form.

If you are a publisher and already have an ISBN number and need more, fill out the Application for an Additional ISBN Publisher Prefix (See Resources,) and specify the number of ISBN’s you need. E-mail or send the form to Bowker.

International Standard Numbering System for the Information Industry

630 Central Avenue, New Providence, New Jersey 07974

FAX: 908-219-0188


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About the Author

Jennifer Moore began writing in 2006, specializing in Web content, blogs and forum postings. She is a graduate from the most prestigious university in Mexico, Universidad de Las Americas, with a B.A. in international relations, later obtaining a U.S. teacher's degree and an additional CompTIA A+ certification in computer technology. Moore has written for My Mexico Living, BoomersAbroad and various other websites.