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If you plan to sell your book or make it available in libraries then you’ll need an ISBN. As an author or self-publisher working on your first title, the process of obtaining an ISBN may raise a few questions. Here are answers to some common questions that the book sales team at Sheridan is frequently asked …

If my printer or publishing services provider supplies my ISBN, do I still own my book?

According to Bowker, the agency responsible for issuing ISBNs in the US, “If a self-publisher wants to be identified as the publisher, they must get their own ISBN. A printing company or publisher services company cannot sell, give away or transfer one of their ISBNs to a customer.”

So, what does this mean?

If your ISBN is obtained by your printer or a publishing services provider that is fine, but the ISBN belongs to “them” and cannot be transferred to you. Basically, they fill the role of the publisher for the book. When the book is distributed it will be under their name as they will be linked to the books metadata and listed as the publisher in biographical databases. If at some point you want to distribute the book under your own name, you will need to obtain a separate ISBN and reassign the book to the new ISBN.

Regardless if you obtain your own ISBN or have your printer or publishing services provider obtain one, your book content remains yours. You still retain your rights, authorship, and copyright ownership (unless the contract you sign with your publishing services provider states otherwise).

How many ISBNs do I need for my title?

A different ISBN is needed for each format that will be sold (softcover, hardcover, audio, ePub, ePDF, etc.). ISBNs are sold individually or in multiples of 10 or 100. If you think you may want to publish the book in other formats in the future or if you have other titles you will be publishing, it is worth purchasing multiple ISBN’s instead of just one.

Where can I obtain an ISBN or find further information regarding ISBN ownership?

You can purchase ISBNs directly from Bowker’s website. Their site offers a wealth of information including FAQs on ISBN ownership.

In addition, the book sales team at Sheridan is always standing ready to answer any questions you may have about ISBNs. While Sheridan does not offer ISBN obtainment services, we can easily walk you through the steps required to purchase one.


Do you have additional questions about what it takes to self-publish a book? Download our handy Self-Publisher's Step-by-Step Guide.

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