If you want to sell your book to libraries, through online or retail bookstores, or through any other retail outlet, you’ll need to obtain an ISBN and bar code, and list your books in the Books in Print database.
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is used to identify and order books. The first part of the number identifies the publisher and the rest of the number identifies the specific book.
If your book is being published by a traditional commercial publisher or by a subsidy publisher (self-publishing company), they will assign the ISBN and provide a bar code for the back cover.
If you self-publish your book using CreateSpace as your printer/distributor, you have the option of using one of their ISBNs or using your own ISBN. If you use the CreateSpace ISBN, they will be listed as the publisher on your Amazon page and in the Books in Print database. Also, you would not be able to take your files to a different printer such as Lightning Source. The advantage of using the CreateSpace ISBN is that they will place your book into the Baker & Taylor database, giving you access to one of the largest book wholesalers in the U.S.
If you are publishing independently, you’ll need to purchase your own ISBNs from RR Bowker. Prices start at $250 for 10 ISBNs. If you're planning to publish only one book, you can order a single ISBN from Bowker for $125.
A separate ISBN is required for each format (paperback, hardcover, audio book, ebook) and each new edition of a book. ISBNs used to be 10 digits long; now they are 13 digits. Books published in the last few years have both numbers.
If you purchased a block of 10-digit ISBNs in the past, you can still use the unused numbers, but you MUST use Bowker's ISBN conversion tool to convert them to the new 13-digit format.
ISBNs for Ebooks
ISBNs are NOT required for Kindle and Nook ebooks, but you can assign one if you wish. Technically you should assign separate ISBNs for each type of ebook file. Do not use the same ISBNs that are on the paperback book.
When you publish an ebook through Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon automatically assigns a unique ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) to identify the product so there's no need for an ISBN. If you publish a Nook ebook through their PubIt service, they assign it a BNID number.
Apple does require ISBNs on ebooks, but if you publish your ebook through Smashwords to get onto the Apple store, Smashwords can provide you with a free or low-cost ISBN.
A Bookland EAN bar code should be printed on the bottom of the book’s back cover. Most book designers provide a bar code at no additional cost. If you need to buy a bar code, you can purchase one from Bowker for about $25. Many other companies sell bar codes, but be sure you are getting a "Bookland EAN" barcode. For my own paperback books, I purchased a bar code for $10 from Create Bar Codes.
Click here for Bowker’s guidelines on the correct use and placement of bar codes.
Books in Print
Once you have a publication date and page count for your book, you must enter the book into Bowker’s Books in Print database so that bookstores and libraries can find it. The online bookstores use this database for their product listings, but it can take up to six weeks for your book to appear in the online stores, so enter your information as soon as possible.
To submit your book to Books in Print, go to www.bowkerlink.com. You will need to enter BISAC (Book Industry Subject and Category) codes to identify the subject matter. To find the appropriate BISAC codes for your book, click here and select "Classification Schemes" from the menu.
Traditional publisheres will take care of your Books in Print listing. If you are publishing through a subsidy publisher they should take care of it, but double check to be sure.