Should I buy my own block of ISBNs if my publisher includes one in my package? No.

Hi Angela,

Would you say that an author buying his own ISBN has almost no advantage over taking the free one from an online publisher such as your company?


Most bookstores search Ingram’s database (not Bowker’s) when trying to order a book. Even if an author uses their own ISBN, it will appear under their publisher’s account with Ingram and the order will then go to the publisher, not the author.

Only in the rare case when a firm uses Bowker’s system to attempt to place an order will that firm then contact the owner of the ISBN. That order would then go to the author.

Since Ingram is so popular, and since most stores already have an account with Ingram, far fewer sales are made through contact info. provided in Bowker’s database to bookstores/wholesalers/distributors.

Even if an author owns their own ISBN, if they switch from one publisher to another, they’re going to have to assign a new ISBN all over again (since, even if the author owns their ISBN, their previously publisher will have that ISBN registered under their account in Ingram, not the author’s). Online bookstore systems can’t and won’t allow duplicate ISBN listings.

And, most POD publishers don’t allow authors to use their own ISBN. is one of the very few that do.

So, yes, it is my opinion that there is very little benefit in authors paying for their own ISBNs.


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