Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My venture into self-publishing: obtaining an ISBN

When I first decided to release The Cure, I hadn't considered the possibility of obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). It's not required by most online retailers (some provide an in-house ISBN or other identification number) and I'd thought it was one of those things that would be too difficult for a self-publisher to get. Not so! It's especially easy if you're Canadian, but first, what is an ISBN and why get it?

As per the Wikipedia page on ISBNs:

 "The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code created by Gordon Foster, Emeritus Professor of Statistics at Trinity College, Dublin, for the booksellers and stationers W. H. Smith and others in 1965.
 The 10-digit ISBN format was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and was published in 1970 as international standard ISO 2108.
 Since 1 January 2007, ISBNs have contained 13 digits, a format that is compatible with "Bookland" EAN-13s."

My understanding is that ISBNs are mostly important for brick and mortar bookstores so they can keep an accurate account of their stock (i.e. taking orders, making sales, etc). This is probably why ISBNs aren't required for digital books. There isn't really a stock, or at least, there's no physical product changing hands. Why it can be useful for independent publishers is that it can help boost visibility in the vast market of online books. You can also search a book by it's ISBN (although who's going to search for an ISBN over a title or author I don't know).

So, if you're a Canadian resident, ISBNs are free of charge, which is awesome, since if you're an American resident you have to pay for it.

Canadian residents go to Collections Canada, which is a part of Library and Archives of Canada. Once there, you click on the 'Join CISS' link on the left hand side. Next, click on the 'Acceptance of Terms', link and then you're taken to the electronic form you're required to fill out to obtain an account. It's a pretty straightforward form, requesting standard information. The one funny thing is, if you're planning to publish a digital book like I am, you select the Electronic Book Text option under 'Type of Product' (It sounds like a very archaic way of describing a digital book).

I waited around 10 days (I can't remember exactly what day I hit submit on) before I received an email to state my application had been accepted. From here, you have to go back to the CISS website, log in, and go to the 'Request an ISBN' link. At this point you just need to fill out one more form (again, very basic) and click submit. You'll have your ISBN almost immediately.

The ISBN for The Cure is: 978-0-9921294-0-8. It should be on sale very soon.



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