More often than not, the authors I work with have questions about the purpose, use and how to purchase an International Book Standard Number (ISBN). I’ve found that many authors confuse the ISBN with the Bookland EAN barcode that goes on the back cover of printed books, thinking they are the same thing. They are also confused about whether they need to buy their own ISBN or if they should just use the free ISBN that some print-on-demand companies offer. If you fall into any of the these categories of confusion, I’m here to help.
About the ISBN
The ISBN became an international standard in the 1970s to solve the issue of it being difficult to locate a particular book since titles and author names can overlap. It allows each version of a published book to have its own unique identifier making it easier to track. The information associated with your ISBN includes your title, author name / publisher name, price and more.
Who needs an ISBN?
If you plan to publish and sell your book through any retail channels, you will need an ISBN.
You don’t need an ISBN if you are planning to create the book for private use only. This could include:
Personal publications: ex) recipes, family history, photo book
Workbooks for seminars or presentations
Training manuals, handbooks or other material for internal use within a company
Books or materials that are only intended as incentives or for giveaways
However, if you plan to eventually publish it for commercial use, you’ll need an ISBN at that time.
There have been times where I’ve received a book to format and the author hasn’t included a copyright page. I always add in a very minimal one at that point, but it makes me wonder how many other authors just don’t include one.
Elements of a copyright page for U.S. authors
There are only two elements that are required for a copyright page.
E-readers and e-books, without a doubt, are a game changer. Not only did it open up new opportunities for aspiring authors, but it opened up new opportunities for readers as well. People can purchase an e-book online and it is in their hands instantly on their Kindle, Nook, iPad, or any other device that can serve as an e-reader. People have the opportunity to read more because it’s quicker, easier and there are so many authors to choose from now.
When readers were polled in 2013 via Maria Force, 77 percent of readers preferred e-books over the 52 percent who preferred paperbacks. Therefore, a majority of sales are e-books and people are excepting professionally formatted e-books. They don’t want something that takes thought to read, they just want to read it naturally. The best formatting job, is one that isn’t noticed. You will get bad reviews if your formatting is not up to their standards, because even in this short time, readers have developed higher standards. And they should have because reading a book is about enjoying the story, not struggling to find where the next line starts.