Dave, I’m trying to publish my own book and just found out I need to get an ISBN. What is an ISBN, how do I get one, and how much does it cost?
ISBN is the International Standard Book Number, a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published anywhere in the world. Pick up any book on your bookshelf and you’ll find that it has an ISBN. My book Wicked Cool Shell Scripts has an assigned ISBN of 978-1-59327-012-7.
Turns out you can decipher this ISBN number too: the five parts of an ISBN are the EAN or GS1 (‘978’ in the ISBN above), group or country identified (‘1’), publisher identifier (‘59327’), title identifier (‘012’) and the check digit (‘7’). Sure enough, check another title from the same publisher, NoStarch Press, Write Portable Code, its ISBN is ISBN 978-1-59327-056-9.
ISBN numbers are assigned by a group of agencies worldwide coordinated by the International ISBN Agency in London, England. In the United States, ISBNs are assigned by the U.S. ISBN Agency: R.R. Bowker is the independent agent in the US for this system. Their website: MyIdentifiers.com.
You can apply for an ISBN on their Web site — there’s a fee of $125.00 for a single ISBN or $250 for 10 ISBNs. The assignment of ISBNs is immediate and there’s also a title registration service offered that allows you to provide and update your book’s metadata for better marketing through online bibliographic databases.
All told, for a new publisher to get an ISBN (or ten) will cost $250, or $25/ISBN. Since you can get 10 ISBNs for the same price as two, it’s worth applying for books on your horizon too, rather than just the one you’re about to publish.
Here’s the critical link: Get Your ISBN Now.
Note that there’s a print application too, if you’d prefer not filling it out electronically and paying by credit card.
I hope this gets you started with your ISBN application. Once you’ve done that, don’t forget to also register your copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office too!