The Anatomy of a 13 character ISBN code.

The Anatomy of a 13 character ISBN code.

ISBN Canada, over at Library and Archives Canada (government), provides a free ISBN service to Canadian artists. Did anyone know that?  I didn’t. I was slogging through Smashwords and reading some details on self-publishing with them and then wondered if they provided free ISBNs like Amazon does. Well they linked me to ISBN Canada. And now I am sitting here stunned.

For those of you who do not know (or thought you knew): An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies each specific edition of a book or book-like product. You need a unique code for your eBook, for your hardcover or softcover, etc. etc.  In the United States, as an artist, you need to go to a company like Bowkers and purchase a number of ISBNs for your use. How much? It costs $125 USD for one ISBN or $275 USD for ten ISBNs. I thought that was normal. Note: you don’t actually need an ISBN, but it helps on many levels should your book do well. It doesn’t protect your book from being stolen, for example, but you can prove that the book is registered to you under the ISBN registration. Like a fingerprint. All book databases use the ISBN to track books. ISBNs are how readers and buyers find your books. They are essential for sales to bookstores, for online sales, and for listing in databases and directories such as Books in Print.

See why am I so stunned right now? ISBN Canada just asks me how many I want and then they assign them to me. For free. That is amazing. I need to wait 10 days though…blast it! Government bureaucracy!

You’ll notice I mentioned that Amazon will provide an ISBN for free. You’ll be wondering, so what’s the problem? Well, that ISBN  can only be used on the Amazon version of the book and only on CreateSpace – not for Kindle Direct Publishing. It also identifies Amazon as the publisher even though I am self-publishing. It’s just a bit oily if you know what I mean.