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Do I have to get an ISBN for my eBook? 

We all have a lot of questions when it comes to self publishing and even more when it comes to getting an ISBN for an eBook. Here's the top FAQs answered for you. Read ON! #StayInspiredOnTheGo 
ISBN for an eBook If you are keeping your foot in the self-publishing journey, you would have already come across several questions on ISBN for your book. Becoming an author isn’t easy, you might have myriad doubts that run through your mind, not to mention the pressure you feel from the expectations of family & friends.

If you choose to go for an eBook through Amazon KDP, you might have encountered a question relating to the ISBN. Don’t worry! You are not alone!

Here are the answers to the 12 most frequently asked questions relating to ISBN for your book:

1. What is ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a unique 13-digit number with a barcode assigned for your book that contains technical aspects like the book title, language, edition, publisher, page count, etc.

There is an ISBN issued for each edition and version of the book. If you choose to print various editions of your book, you would have to get an ISBN for each. The same applies if you choose to publish in other formats like an audiobook, or hardcover.

2. Who issues ISBN?

The distribution body for ISBN varies with the location and country you stay in.

Here are the distributing bodies of some of the countries:

USA: an organization called Bowker,

UK: Nielsen UK ISBN Agency,

Australia: Thorpe-Bowker,

India: Raja Ram Mohan Roy National Agency for ISBN

Canada: English Library and Archives Canada

New Zealand – The National Library of New Zealand

Philippines – National Library of the Philippines

South Africa – National Library of South Africa

You can figure out the ISBN distribution body depending on the country you reside.

3. How important is an ISBN?

ISBN has been existing since the 1970s. It’s the way to give a unique identification to your book over another. It is very necessary to track your book and be able to distinguish it from others with the same title.

If you want to distribute your books to bookstores or online bookstores & platforms like Amazon, they won’t accept a book without an ISBN.

ISBN for an eBook 4. How to get ISBN when publishing through Amazon KDP?

If you are planning to self-publish your book through Amazon KDP, you might have this doubt or be hit with this question from others.

You can get an ISBN from Amazon if you go for a paperback or hardcover version of your book. If you choose to go for the paperback or hardcover version of your book, your book will be under Print-On-Demand (POD) meaning that it will print the books as per the no. of orders of your book. You won’t have to pay any printing cost upfront, it would deduct a specific amount [say $2.15 when publishing through Amazon US] from the sale price of your book and pay you the Royalty accordingly.

5. Do I get an ISBN for an eBook? Do you need one?

If you choose Amazon KDP for self-publishing your book in eBook format, you will not get an ISBN. Amazon will assign its own identifier called ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number] which is a 10-digit numeric code.

You don’t need an ISBN for the eBook version of your book, but if you still want it, you can get it from a national agency in your country [as mentioned in Question 2].

6. Can I use my own ISBN on Amazon?

Yes. If you already have an ISBN for your book, you can use it while publishing through Amazon KDP. You will need to own the rights to the ISBN. Beware that, in case, you have made edits in your book, if you are re-using the ISBN that you have used elsewhere, the orders to your book will be fulfilled with the older version and not the one you have uploaded through KDP.

7. Advantages of purchasing my own ISBN?

Well, If you are wondering about the advantages of purchasing an ISBN, here are a couple of them:

- You will have complete control over the metadata, like the book description and the category. Choosing the right category will make it easier for the bookstores and others to discover your book.

- Since you own it, you can use it on any number of self-publication platforms and even if you choose Indie-publishing.

ISBN for an eBook 8. How can I purchase an ISBN? What is the cost?

You can apply for ISBN through a national agency in your country. The cost to acquire an ISBN varies depending on your location. For example, in the USA, it costs $125 for a single ISBN. For a set of 10, it would cost $295; and for a set of 100, it would cost $575. In Australia, it might cost about $40, whereas, in the UK, it might cost about 89 GBP.

In certain countries like Canada and India, there is no cost associated with acquiring an ISBN.

9. Can I use ISBN from Amazon for publishing my book on another platform?

No, the free ISBN issued by Amazon only works on KDP. You will not be able to use it for publishing through any other platform like IngramSpark or any other self-publishing platform.

It needs to be noted that ISBN through Amazon is valid for the distribution of the book.

10. Do I have to pay for ISBN from Amazon?

For an ISBN from Amazon, choose the option ‘Assign me an ISBN’ while uploading your book. The ISBN issued through Amazon is Free of cost.

11. Do ISBNs expire?

No, ISBNs don’t expire. You can use it for as long as you are publishing the same version of your book.

12. Are ISBNs transferrable across different formats?

It is one of the most frequently asked questions.

Answer: No, not at all. You can use ISBN for only one book and one format. If you choose to change the title of your book or make considerable revisions, the book will be published as a new edition which would need a new ISBN.

Also, you cannot use the same ISBN for different formats like eBook or Audiobook versions of the same book.


We hope that this article helps resolve the questions that you might have had relating to ISBN.

If you have any question that hasn’t been answered in the article, feel free to share in the comments below.

Image Credits:

Image 1: Life Simplified! by Sujit Lalwani

Image 2: Wikipedia

Image 3: Image by Book Catalog on Flickr

Sources for this article:

1. What is an ISBN and Imprint Name?

2. Should I use KDP’s free ISBN or my own?


4. How to Get an ISBN Number for a Self-Published Book & Answers to the Top 35 FAQs

5. Do I need an ISBN for my eBook?

6. ISBN vs Own ISBN: Which one is right for you

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Any facts, figures or references stated here are made by the author & don't reflect the endorsement of iU at all times unless otherwise drafted by official staff at iU. This article was first published here on 3rd July 2022.

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