The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) has been around since the system was established in 1970, and remains a vital part of the publishing industry that every author should be aware of.
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) shook things up with its own ISBNs and ASINs, which work a little differently than traditional book numbers.
Here are the ins and outs of these different types of ISBNs. Whether you’re an author or a publisher, it’s a good idea to learn what each issue demands and offers.
What are ISBNs and ASINs?
If you want to publish your novel smoothly or enhance your eBook publishing career steps by also offering a high-quality print version, educate yourself on ISBNs, if only to avoid future problems.
In short, ISBNs are 13 digits long and serve to digitally identify each book in circulation, including details such as its edition, publisher, and the country in which it was registered.
This makes it easier for anyone in the publishing supply chain, from retailers to libraries, to order, sell and stock books.
One fact to remember is that ISBNs are not required. You don’t need one if you only intend to sell your book in person or through your website. However, if you want to see it in physical stores, an ISBN is a must.
Another misconception about ISBNs relates to copyright. A published book proves its author, release date, etc., but its ISBN is not proof of copyright.
If you have further questions about how copyright works or what fair use is for authors, get advice from trusted sources, especially official ones like the US Copyright Office page on registration of literary works.
Now, let’s take a look at the KDP book numbers. When publishing on this platform, if you haven’t already purchased your own ISBN, Amazon adds one free to every printed book.
Digital publications, like any Amazon product, get an ASIN, which stands for Amazon Standard Identification Number. Both codes do the same job as normal ISBNs; they bookmark a book so Amazon can list and distribute it without hassle. The problem is that you can only distribute your book through the company’s publishing system and you have to follow their rules.
Clearly, there are pros and cons to either ISBN option, so it’s worth taking a closer look at their differences. Think about your publishing plan and what type of book number you need.
Key Differences Between Regular and Amazon ISBNs
Dealing with ISBNs is not as simple as creating barcodes in Google Sheets. The traditional ISBN route is expensive but more productive. Amazon is cheaper and no less helpful, but its claims aren’t for everyone.
1. Amazon numbers are easier to get
You can only buy an ISBN from the official agency for your country, which is Bowker in the US. The easiest way to get your book code is to order one or more through the service My Identifiers page to buy ISBNs.
KDP, on the other hand, gives you an ISBN or ASIN automatically if you don’t already have one of your own. If you’re happy to use Amazon just for your publishing needs, it’s the least complicated process.
2. Amazon ISBNs and ASINs are free
Another advantage of using KDP book numbers is that they are completely free, a lifesaver for self-publishing authors with limited funds.
Bowker charges $125 for a single ISBN, quite a difference. However, they do come cheaper in bulk, which is great if you have multiple novels in mind.
In addition to more diverse packages, including standard barcodes and QRPlus codes, you can get:
- 10 ISBNs for $295
- 100 numbers for $575
- 1,000 numbers for $1,500
3. Regular ISBNs can show more information about a book’s publication
Investing in a regular ISBN can increase your book’s prospects. For starters, if you make a deal with a publisher or even release the book yourself, you can display the publisher’s details on the copyright page.
If you go directly through Amazon for your ISBN and publication, that same page can only say Independently published. Alternatively, as KDP explains about ISBNsYou can list an already published book on Amazon and show your existing print and 13-digit number.
At the end of the day, having a proper publisher’s name attached to your book makes it look better. It adds prestige and attracts readers more than a vague little phrase.
4. Regular ISBNs allow for wider distribution
Another problem with Amazon ISBNs is that you can’t get your titles on bookstore shelves as easily as you can with regular numbers.
Although it has free access Expanded Distribution on KDPthat allows retailers and libraries to order their books from Amazon, there are still limitations, such as:
- A mandatory price increase for your book
- Only paperbacks are allowed
- strict content requirements
- Exclusion of some languages
Then again, only Amazon reaches very broad audiences and offers a range of tools to get the most out of your publication.
To promote your eBook on KDP, for example, you can use free book promotions, ad campaigns, sponsored posts, and other perks that get your work in front of the right people.
If this isn’t good enough and you want to be able to approach other retailers freely, save up and go straight for a traditional ISBN. Your experience will be very different and much more rewarding.
5. Amazon is very strict with its publishers
The best deal you can get on Amazon as an author involves signing up for KDP Select, which unlocks plenty of marketing tools and 70% royalties, but demands exclusivity.
What Amazon KDP Terms and Conditions explain about e-books:
When you include an eBook on KDP Select, you grant us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your eBook in digital format while it is on KDP Select. During this exclusivity period, you may not sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or a book that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory in which you have rights.
Therefore, any issues with your ISBN or ASIN may be the least of your worries, especially if it violates Amazon’s rules. The company has a habit of abruptly shutting down offending accounts before their owners have a chance to repossess their property.
Basically, if you’re joining the KDP bandwagon, make sure you understand the rules, from what you can share on social media to how to spot and avoid fake Amazon reviews. It will help you tread carefully and make the most of the freebies that come with that free ISBN.
Choose the correct ISBN for the best publishing experience
There’s more to publishing than ISBNs, but the wrong number can cripple the scope of your work. That’s why it’s so important for independent authors to learn the difference between regular and Amazon KDP ISBNs and how to choose the best option for their books.
Freedom of movement and distribution are at the heart of their differences. An author with a global campaign in mind that includes brick-and-mortar stores, online retailers, and creative marketing is better off buying his ISBN.
Amazon’s free versions are for those who love the platform, are happy with their offerings, and don’t mind the terms.