ISBN numbers for eBooks

I am currently writing an eBook that I initially intend to sell via my own website. Later on I may place it on the Apple iBook Store in which case I gather an ISBN number is required.

In many countries these are free but having just checked now in the UK it looks like we have to buy a batch of ten that costs £126. I just don’t see myself writing another nine books in the future and don’t see why I would need an ISBN number at all if selling from my own website. Does anybody know of a cheaper way to do this?

Sgt. Amazon Kindle? Have you checked it out. … mbers.html

Thanks vic-k, it looks like it isn’t 100% necessary if I only sell from my own site but may have some advantages nonetheless. I’ve found this place selling them for $9 each but I don’t know if there is any kind of limitation that obliges authors to obtain ISBN numbers in their own country.

Edit: I’ve just sent an email to the site asking if writers based in other countries can buy their ISBN numbers.

Just to follow up I’ve received email confirmation that anybody can use those ISBN numbers so it’s a significant saving compared to to the £126 for a minimum batch of ten I saw quoted in the UK. They are issued for free in several countries though, so as often appears to be the case we tend to pay a premium for many things in the UK.

Hi Bilko

From this page: … f-publish/

With epubbud, will they be your publisher? Is that what you want?

Smashwords will give you a free ISBN … smashwords
… but, again, they will then be the publisher.

Smashwords books are available through iBooks on the Apple store.

NOTE: I have not used Smashwords, so cannot personally endorse the company.



In all the blurb with epubbud they mentioned that they would be listed as the publisher if I purchased an ISBN number through them but said this doesn’t affect our rights as creators in any way. It says:

Note: all the ISBNs we distribute have “ePub Bud” as the publisher in the Bowker database. Don’t worry though, that fact does not convey any rights to us, nor does it affect your ability to do anything you’d like with your book (or the ISBN), publish it anywhere, keep all royalties for yourself, etc, etc… Bowker just won’t let us change the publisher field for less than $75 an ISBN (and therefore we don’t offer that)!

It would be good to hear from anybody who knows more about this subject.

Hi Bilko

Hope someone can help. Noticed on that same page that they say:

Seems a little “odd” to me to be advising authors to give their books away for free.

Googling epubbud brings up a number of these:

Wonder what that is about.

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I certainly wouldn’t be using epubbud or any other similar organisation to distribute my book and no way will I be giving it away for free after all this work. All I was interested in is obtaining an ISBN number at a reasonable price. The place in the UK I’ve seen for selling ISBN numbers is … p?page=121.

Perhaps the biggest headache I currently find with my last eBook is piracy and I find it utterly galling when Google brings up search results from file sharing sites ahead of my own where I am trying to sell my book. I’m sick of sending out DMCA notices that are generally ignored.

Some of those complaints you see in the Google rankings appear to be from epubbud against other listings that presumably infringed on their copyright somehow but without seeing the actual pages it’s hard to know at this point. I was looking at a service recently that supposedly helps authors dealing with these problems

Interesting info, Bilko.

Guess if epubbud doesn’t have the right to sell/giveaway your book—even though they are the nominated publisher as such—then you should be okay.

Just not heard of epubbud until today.

Their Twitter account describes them as being like YouTube for books … free content.

And the Whois record just says the site is owned by a private registrant:

Would hope/think that other Scriveners might be able to come up with some advice for you.

Good luck


We certainly have to guard our copyright jealously because there is hordes of ruthless companies and individuals lined up to take advantage of creators. In the past I’ve had a lot of dealings with photo stock libraries and found them to be a pretty dishonest lot, so when I started writing books I was determined not to give up control over distribution and so far I believe that has been a wise decision.

I just found this link about authors now reclaiming copyright from publishers on work they did 35 years ago … s-in-2013/

Some general information here on ISBN numbers with particular relevance to the UK

FYI, Sarge

On this page

…they have a lot of books by Abbi Glines.

They are NOT authorised copies.



That is terrible and this is really the biggest block to earnings for authors and other creatives these days. I’ve come across certain sites saying they offer free eBook downloads where they actually use the ISBN codes as a means for finding the books that are clearly copyright protected but these same sites often play dumb as though they are complete innocents. The author issues a DMCA notice and if they even respond chances are it will be back up there a week later.

You only have to see the comments section following any news article on file sharing to know that only one person in a hundred is opposed to illegal downloads. The loss in tax revenues must be huge and I think it’s long overtime that governments got tough with sites that are blatantly facilitating copyright infringement.

I agree with you, Sarge.

Publishing digitally is easy in the first place, but—unfortunately—also easy to pirate.

Authors and all creatives need to earn a crust.



A debate has been raging in publishing for several years about ISBNs. Unfortunately, there’s no replacement on the horizon and the major publishers, who buy ISBNs cheaply in lots of 10,000 and have an internal workflow built around them, aren’t that concerned.

I was lucky. I bought 1000 ISBNs back in 1999 for $600. That means that I ‘own’ the digits 58742 that follow the 578-1.

That almost seemed absurd at the time. But 100 was $400 and I felt I just might use that many, so paying $200 more for ten times as many made sense. And I’m glad I did. I’ve already used 70 and each book now consumes 4 ISBNs:

  1. Print version. There, I can use the same ISBN for Lightning and Amazon. A hardback would be another ISBN, but I’m doing fewer of those now.

  2. The iBookstore version. Required by Apple unless you go through an aggravator such as Smashwords.

  3. The Kindle version. Not required and not even posted by Amazon, but a search on Amazon by that ISBN will bring it up.

  4. The Smashword version. Again one isn’t required, but since I have so many, I’d rather use my own than one of theirs. Unfortunately, and this ticks me off, supplying my own ISBN should mean that my publishing company, Inkling Books, should be listed as the publisher on B&N etc. It isn’t.

The problem with ISBNs is that, in each country, distribution is a monopoly with the usual results. Some countries are like Canada. To encourage local culture over the U.S. monolith, ISBNs are free, meaning paid for by taxpayers. In others, you pay whatever the one supplier deems necessary. In the US, Bowker demands huge sums for small quantities because they can get away with that. Their website, where you’ll be forced to enter data about your book, is also hideously ill-designed. Again, that’s the ‘you have no choice but us’ attitude.

In a decade or so, I expect ISBNs for ebooks will go away. It’s absurd that a system designed for print books in the era of mainframe computers is being used for ebooks in the Internet age. But until then you’ll have to live with the woes of ISBNs.

And, like me, unless you’re certain you just have one book to publish, you might want to dig deep and get that quantity discount, as pitiful as it now is compared to 1999.

–Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien

ISBNs are free here in Canada? Maybe it’s time I set up Pigfender Publishing…

I was listening to a podcast for a SciFi and Fantasy book club called The Sword and Laser, and the subject of self-publishing came up in their interview of Michael J. Sullivan.
(Look for “S&L Podcast - #122 - Interview with Michael J. Sullivan” as time passes and newer podcasts shift that one down).

If you open up the comments, there’s a nice summary with links to articles about ISBNs. I pasted them for convenience, with the caveat that I’m only passing them along; I only read one, and can’t testify to their veracity. … -book.html … ublishers/

According to this Apple page
… ISBNs are not needed.

… although every article about iBooks always says ISBNs are needed. Bit confusing. I am sure you are right because you have published via iBooks and are therefore speaking from experience. I know the page goes on to say free books don’t need ISBNs, but that line does say that ISBNs are not required for any books.