Free ISBN Barcode Generator

What is a Book’s ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, It’s a unique numerical identifier assigned to a book by the publisher. Think of it as a book’s fingerprint. This unique identifier is used to identify and track the book in bookstores and libraries. An ISBN consists of 13 digits and is usually printed on the back cover or on the copyright page of a book. 

The ISBN system is a quick and easy way for bookstores and libraries to keep track of a book’s inventory, and for customers to find the book they’re looking for. It’s important to note that every book edition has its own ISBN, so, for example, a hardcover and paperback edition of the same book will have different ISBNs. The ISBN is a small but mighty number that plays a big role in the book-selling world.

Book Back Cover with an ISBN Barcode


What Do the ISBN Numbers Mean?

Each ISBN is made up of a combination of numbers with a specific meaning. You can break down the 13 numbers into the following five components:

  1. EAN: The first three digits of an ISBN-13 number, either 978 or 979, indicates that the product is a book. 
  2. Country or Language: The next digit indicates the country or language group of the publication. For English-language books, this digit is always 0 or 1.
  3. Publisher: The next three digits are the publisher code, which identifies the specific publisher. 
  4. Title, Edition & Format: The next five digits are the title code, identifying the specific book and edition. 
  5. Check Digit: Finally, the last digit is the check digit, used to verify the accuracy of the ISBN number.

Example ISBN number with explanations of the different ISBN components: EAN, Country, Publisher, Title & Format, and Check Digit


How Can I Get an ISBN as a Self-published Author?

As a self-published author, you have a few options for obtaining an ISBN for your book. We’ll explain a few of the most common.


ISBN Agencies & Retailers

You can purchase an ISBN from agencies such as Bowker or Nielsen. These retailers will assign an ISBN to your book and register it in the global ISBN database. This option gives you full control over your ISBN and the information associated with it. Here’s an overview of the most popular ISBN agencies arranged by country:





United States


United Kingdom

Canadian ISBN Agency




ISBN-Agentur Bundesrepublik Deutschland






Agencia del ISBN


Japan Publishing Organization


Raja Rammohun Roy Agency


ISBN agencies and retailers for all other countries can be found at:


Self-Publishing Services

Some self-publishing platforms, such as Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Lulu or IngramSpark, will assign an ISBN to your book as part of their publishing service. 

Many of these services will register the ISBN under the name of the self-publishing platform, rather than the author’s. Therefore, the downside with this option is that the book may be bound to the platform you choose, and you won’t be able to distribute it elsewhere with the same ISBN.

Here’s a list of the most popular self-publishing services that can provide you with an ISBN:



ISBN Service

Amazon KDP

Free ISBN for any book (except low content books)


Free ISBN included in service


Free ISBN included in service


Free ISBN included in service


Free ISBN included in service


How Much Does an ISBN Cost?

The cost of an ISBN varies depending on the country and the number of ISBNs you purchase. Here are a few examples:

  • In the US, the cost of an ISBN can be as follows: 1 ISBN for $125, 10 ISBNs for $295, and 100 ISBNs for $575.
  • In the UK, the cost of an ISBN can be as follows: 1 ISBN for £91.00, 10 ISBNs for £169.00, and 100 ISBNs for £379.00.

It’s worth noting that some self-publishing platforms like Amazon KDP provide free ISBNs to authors who publish their books through their platform. This can be a cost-effective option for authors who are on a tight budget. However, keep in mind that using a free ISBN from a self-publishing platform may limit your distribution options.


Is an ISBN Necessary to Publish a Book?

An ISBN isn’t always required for publishing a book, but it is required for certain formats. Here’s a breakdown of when an ISBN is required for different book formats:

  • Print Books: Having an ISBN is a requirement for all publishers, including self-publishers, as it allows booksellers and readers to find and purchase your book easily.
  • Ebooks: ISBNs are not a requirement for ebooks distributed through major platforms such as Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Google Play Books, and Sony. However, some distributors may require an ISBN for their ebooks.
  • Audiobooks: Similar to ebooks, ISBNs are not typically required for audiobooks distributed through major platforms. However, some distributors may require an ISBN for their audiobooks.

In general, an ISBN is only required for print books, and not for ebooks and audiobooks on major digital distribution services.


How Do I Find the ISBN Number of a Book?

You can easily find a book’s ISBN number by using the tool ISBN Search. Here’s a quick step-by-step guide on how to do it:

  1. Go to
  2. Enter the ISBN, book title, or author’s name in the search bar
  3. In the search bar, enter the title of the book you’re looking for
  4. Hit the “Search” button to start the search
  5. Browse through the results and try to find the book you are looking for
  6. Finally, you can click “View this Book” to get more details about the title

Another way to find the ISBN number is by looking for it on the book itself. The ISBN can usually be found on the back cover, near the barcode, or on the copyright page. It’s a 13-digit number that starts with either 978 or 979.

Search results on the ISBN Search website with the example title "The Psychology of Money" by Morgan Housel


ISBN-13 vs. ISBN-10: What’s the Difference?

As you’re going through the self-publishing process, you may come across the terms ISBN-10 and ISBN-13. These are two different systems used to identify books, but what exactly sets them apart? 

Before 2007, ISBNs were 10 digits long. However, in order to increase the availability of ISBNs worldwide, the publishing world transitioned to a 13-digit ISBN system. So, books published prior to January 2007 will have both an ISBN-10 and an ISBN-13. On the other hand, books published after January 2007 will only have an ISBN-13.

  • An ISBN-13 is a 13-digit number that begins with the prefix of 978 or 979 and ends with a check digit. 
  • An ISBN-10, on the other hand, is a 10-digit number that starts with a group identifier, which identifies a country, geographical, or language area, and also ends with a check digit. 

So the main difference between the two is the number of digits in the code and the prefix.


ISBN vs. Barcode: What’s the Difference?

While both ISBNs and barcodes are used for identifying products, they serve different purposes.

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique 13-digit number assigned to a book by its publisher. It allows book vendors, libraries, and readers to identify, track, catalog, and distribute books easily.

A barcode, on the other hand, is a visual representation of the ISBN (for books) or other product identification numbers. It is usually a series of black and white bars and spaces that can be scanned using a barcode scanner. They allow retailers to track inventory and sales quickly and efficiently.

Want to sell more Books?

Get a Proven Step-by-step Blueprint to Launch Your Book Successfully