An International Standard Book Number is an assigned, 13 digit, internationally recognized code that uniquely identifies a book or text-based product. An ISBN helps your project reach the widest audience possible, as one code standardizes how retailers, librarians, and more re-order, stock, and sell your product.
Without an ISBN, retailers won’t carry your product, no matter how outstanding it is. [Click to tweet] Typically, different versions of the same title, for instance, different languages or editions, will have a unique ISBN in order to track sales.
You’ll need an ISBN to sell the following types of projects:
Brochures, pamphlets, coloring books, flash cards (or instructional type cards), graphic novels, journals, diaries, puzzle books, and of course books!
The following items are not eligible for an ISBN (see the next section):
Playing cards, tarot cards, board games, calendars (unless required by the retailer), magazines, academic journals, periodicals, and comic books.
Magazines, periodicals, and comic books are not eligible for ISBNs and are assigned ISSNs which are available from the Library of Congress (find the application here) or from BIPAD.com. However, if you plan to sell a single issue of a magazine as a book and not a serial publication, then the unique issue may be assigned an ISBN. Likewise, if you’re printing several comic books as a volume, then use an ISBN for your product.
If you’re selling several volumes as a set, you’ll only need one ISBN. If you’re planning on selling each volume separately, you’ll need a unique ISBN for each volume and another ISBN for the set. Please note that if you’re selling from your own website or fulfilling a Kickstarter, it’s not necessary to purchase an ISBN.
If you’re printing with PrintNinja, we will:
provide a free ISBN
Generate a barcode for your ISBN and add it to your artwork during prepress
To get started fill out our form.
Bowker is the official ISBN agency for the United States and Australia, and you’ll need to purchase your ISBN directly from them, if you’re not getting one through us. Once purchased, your ISBN will be recognized internationally, and you will not need to get any additional identification codes.
To purchase an ISBN, head to Bowker. Though new ISBNs aren’t necessary for a reprint, you can save some money by getting a larger package if you’re planning on printing new editions or plan on self-publishing other titles.
It’s not necessary to buy a barcode from Bowker; you can create your own using a free barcode maker. Once you have your ISBN use a free barcode generator to create a barcode that you can include on your product cover before printing (make sure it’s 300dpi). You can also add a barcode to your product with a sticker.
For more information on what products require an ISBN, visit Bowker.
What is a GTIN, EAN, or UPC? (Hint: You need this for your game.)
Global Trade Item Numbers (GTIN) uniquely identify products. Licensing a GTIN is essential to uniquely identify your product in a global market, and necessary for selling on Amazon.
Though you don’t need a barcode to sell on eBay, eBay will use any information you input about your product to create the shopper experience, so the more product data you provide the better.
In North America GTIN numbers are 12-digits, but elsewhere in the world GTIN numbers are 13-digits. In North America, 12 digit GTINs in barcode form are called a UPC, or Universal Product Code. In the rest of the world, 13 digit GTINs in barcode form are called an EAN, or European Article Number. They are both recognized globally and are part of the GS1 System, a non-profit organization that administers and maintains GTIN standards. If you license a UPC and want to sell internationally, you can add a zero to the front of your 12 digit GTIN, when a 13 digit number is required.
Get started generating a GTIN for your product by becoming a GS1 member. To get started in the US, you’ll need to fill out an online application, and you can get up to 10 GTIN for an initial fee of $250, plus an annual renewal fee of $50. If you’re selling in the UK at the lowest tier, you’ll receive a 1,000 GTIN numbers for an annual license fee.
Though you don’t need a barcode to sell on eBay, eBay will use any information you input about your product to help customers shop. Likewise, you don’t need a GTIN to fulfill a Kickstarter or sell from your website.