ISBN, Barcode, and Copyright for your self-published book

ISBN, barcode, copyright

Do I need an ISBN for my self-published book?

One of the more ambiguous problems that Self-Published authors face in their adventure to publication is the debate of the ISBN, more specifically what they are and why do you need one?

 What do all the numbers mean?

ISBN’s, or International Standard Book Numbers, are a thirteen-digit number that is often printed as a part of a book barcode. This unique number system was invented in 1965 and is used to identify your book across the world. It is a combination of codes breaking down your regional group, publisher and title and if you want your book printed, you will need to register an ISBN for it.


Why is having an ISBN number so important?

The main reason is that it identifies your book and book-like products internationally so that booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors can not only find your book but also market it more efficiently.

There is always a strong possibility that someone else in the sea of authors will have the same title as yours, with multiple editions, so your ISBN is essential for customers to differentiate between your book and all the others when ordering. It’s important to note that while it’s a specific number for your work, ISBN’s are not a part of copyright.

How do you get an ISBN?

The good news is that there are a few options out there. If you plan on releasing one title or a thousand Thorpe-Bowker has multiple packages at whole sale prices as does Nielsen in the UK. Prices can start from$42$125for just one, but the more you buy the cheaper they end up each.

Can you get free ones?

There are publishing houses like CreateSpace and Lulu that give you the choice of using one of their free ISBNs or you can still provide your own. But be aware, if you use one of their free ISBN’s they will be listed as the publisher of record, even though you will still retain all your rights.

How many am I going to need? Can’t I just use the same one?

ISBNs, while handy for people to find your book, are also limited to their single book format i.e. eBooks, audiobooks, hardcovers, soft covers are all separate formats. You cannot use the same ISBN for your paperback and your eBook and for the moment there is no such thing as an e-ISBN.

What about ISBNs for eBooks?

ISBN’s are necessary for printed editions of your book but eBooks are another more shadowy story. At the moment you don’t need an ISBN number to publish with Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook, Apple, Kobo or Google.

In fact according to the most recent study by Author Earnings at least 30% of the eBooks being purchased in the U.S alone do not use ISBN’s, making all the industry marketing surveys carried out by Bowker, Nielsen, AAP and BISG grossly inaccurate.

The beauty of the self-publishing world provides so many choices that you can make while managing your project and ISBNs are no different, only you will ultimately know what’s best for your book. Knowledge is power in this industry and with the torrent of information out there staying well educated and knowing what is required in all aspects of publishing is essential for your success.

Check out the below links if you want more info:


Do I need a barcode for my self-published book?

Unlike your ISBN, you’ve got a few more options for barcodes.


They give you an option of providing your own barcode or them applying one for you. I suggest using theirs. Once you input your ISBN they will generate a barcode when your book is purchased and then printed for the reader.


IS supply their own barcodes in their template that you can download from here. Once you enter in your ISBN and other book information, it will automatically generate a barcode for you directly into their InDesign template.

Other options for barcodes:

You can use a free barcode generator like the BarcodeMaker plugin,, or purchasing one directly through Bowker to include with your ISBN.


Do I own the copyright of my book?

I am not a lawyer and you may need to consult the copyright law for your specific country.

My understanding for books under copyright in the United States, Australia, New Zealand and most Western countries, once you have created something then it is automatically copyrighted under your name. You do not need to make an application for this. But note this is specific to the creation, not the idea.


What goes on a copyright page in my book?

A basic example of a copyright page for a book is this:

  • The copyright notice. Example: ©2018 Scarlett Rugers
  • What year the book is published
  • Copyright notice
  • ISBN
  • The name of the owner of the works, usually the author or publishing house name
  • Reservation of rights
  • Book editions
  • Your website and social media information
  • Credits to the book like your editors, your cover designer, your formatter
  • Disclaimer

For more information you can check out a thorough guide to self-publishing basics to copyright here.

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