An organization I work with has a few (non English) original works that I will be helping them to publish online and in eBook format. We do hold the publishing rights for these as they are basically compilations of works written in-house (or in one case a translation with modification of public domain material).

Does it make sense to apply for ISBN numbers for works that are compiled into a book format if they will only be published in digital format and self distributed rather than published in a store?

3 Answers 3


Note the following -

  1. A print book ISBN cannot be reused for the eBook
  2. Separate ISBN for each type of format. Kindle, ePub, audio, print (paperback, hard cover), etc. are separate formats and each requires its own ISBN.
  3. If we change the book beyond typos and we need a new ISBN.
  4. We do not need an ISBN (its not mandatory) to publish using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Apple or Kobo. Each stores assigns its own code
  5. Unless we are making minor changes like fixing typos, we need to assign a new ISBN. Adding more information or changing information requires a new ISBN.
  6. Make sure that complete information for each ISBN assignment is given to your ISBN Authority. This is very important! The data is shared with book industry databases such as libraries and other retailers. Without it, they won’t know the book exists should someone ask for it.
  7. Author can put all the numbers together on the copyright page or add the appropriate ISBN to the file type we are publishing. For example:
    ISBN 13: 978-0-9999999-9-9 (Paperback edition)
    ISBN 13: 978-0-9999999-9-9 (Kindle edition)
    ISBN 13: 978-0-9999999-9-9 (ePub edition)

Source: http://www.sellbox.com/isbn-essentials-an-faq-for-ebook-publishers/ & Internet

  • Do you have a source for this answer or is it opinion? Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 11:33
  • 1
    Its sourced from many sites which I do not remember. One link I remember is added.
    – neo269
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 14:45

While you can (and should) obtain ISBNs for digital works that will be widely distributed, if you are only going to be distributing through a single website and not through third-party vendors like Amazon, iBookstore, Kobo, Nook, etc., then you do not need an ISBN.

ISBNs aren't cheap unless bought in large quantities, so if this isn't something you'll be doing a lot of, you will probably be better off not going to the trouble and expense.

  • actually you don't need an ISBN even if you plan to sell your ebooks on Amazon, since they have their ASIN.
    – mau
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 8:53
  • @mau If you're only going through Amazon, you're right. Usually, though, if you want to distribute through third-parties, you want to cast the widest net possible, and sites other than Amazon do require ISBNs.
    – Roger
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 14:13
  • 2
    @mau Apple & Kobo not require ISBNs for digital works.
    – neo269
    Commented Feb 10, 2014 at 15:10

I know you'll self publish, but I think the information below is still pertinent.


An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is not required but is recommended for any book you are offering on iBooks. An ISBN uniquely identifies the book and its current edition, and helps you to ensure that you are marketing the right book. The ISBN is also required for reporting your book’s sales to the industry reporting agencies and charting organisations.

Whether an ISBN is for you will ultimately depend on what you want the ISBN for.

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