What is an ISBN and how to get one?

    Publishing your book is quite the process, and there are many important steps and decisions to make as you go along. Obtaining an ISBN for your book is one of the most important steps, especially if your publication will be distributed commercially. What is it, and how do you obtain one?

    The ISBN, which stands for “The International Standard Book Number”, is a unique, numeric identifier for your publication. There is an ISBN for each separate edition and variation of a publication as well, identifying the registrant title, edition, and format. Think of it like the identity of your book, it puts your book into the system and can be used to keep track and manage orders, listings, sales records, and stock.

    To purchase an ISBN, one must go through an affiliate of the international ISBN agency. In Canada, this would be from the ISBN Canada Online System. They are free, but you must be a self publisher residing in Canada with a head office in the country as well. They do not provide copyright protection, you must file an application with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office to prevent copies of your work. You can follow this link here to obtain and ISBN of your own. 

    In the US, an ISBN is obtained from myidentifiers.com. Run by a company called Bowker, they are the only company that can issue an ISBN in the US. ISBN’s may be purchased on their own or in large quantities. Copyright protection in the US is filed through the eCo Online system, where you create an account and fill out a form. There is also a mail in option, though online tends to be faster.

    Luckily, the process for obtaining an ISBN is overall a very simple one. Businesses and self-publishers from Toronto to the United States all have their respective options, both with a very similar process. And remember, you own copyright to your work as soon as it is created, but obtaining copyright protection will help extend this right. Always know your rights as an author and publisher, and make sure you know all processes involved in your respective countries to avoid and legal or printing issues in the future!

Submitted by Emilia Vieni, Feburary 4 2021.