1. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    How many ISBNs should I buy?

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Catrin Lewis, May 4, 2016.

    Having researched the matter, I now know you have to have an ISBN for every format your book is available in. And Kindle is different from Nook is different from PDF is different from print-on-demand and so on.

    So here I am, and I want to keep all viable distribution options open. I also know that it's more economical to purchase ISBNs in bulk. Moreover, I have other work in the pipeline I hope to publish some day.

    In my position, many ISBNs would you purchase? Asking it another way, what formats/platforms (if that's the right term) should I look to providing ISBNs for? Kindle, yes, and POD, and what after that?
     
  2. dbesim
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    dbesim Contributing Member

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    Hi, well you can get your ISBNs for free if you're looking to publish online with Lulu or createspace. I've written about it on the createspace thread. One other drawback is the publishing is done exclusively online and you won't get your book into stores with createspace but you will on Amazon and can include it on your author website :)
     
  3. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    None! You need ISBN's for every paper edition. But CreateSpace and Lulu and I think D2D provide them free. You don't need them for Amazon Kindle as they instead give you an ASIN.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  4. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are there restrictions on where and how you can sell your book if you go with one of those options? And who owns the rights and so forth if you go with CreateSpace, etc.?
     
  5. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Has anyone heard of these guys? And are they legitimate?
    http://www.isbn-us.com/home1/

    They are cheaper than Bowker, but so far as I know Bowker is the industry standard. ( https://www.myidentifiers.com/barcode/main ) It would be nice to be able to buy the 2 ISBN's necessary and not have to purchase a group of 10.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    It looks like you wouldn't be listed as the publisher - it seems like these guys have bought up a batch of ISBNs and are re-selling them, but they can't change the publisher name they bought the numbers under. So instead of being "Joe Smith Publishing" it would show up as "Independent Publisher". So you and everyone else who buys through them would show under the same publisher designation.

    I'm not really sure how much use ISBNs are for self-published books anyway, but if there is any use to them, it seems like this might not be a good option.
     
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  7. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    The nice thing is, they never expire and they never go bad. So if you use two or three on your first book, you've got seven or eight handy for your next opus, and the next, and the next.

    And you can buy two if you want: You'll just have to pay $125 for each of them.
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Again - don't buy ISBN's. It's a complete waste of your money. If you publish through Amazon they'll give you an ASIN for your digital copies, and ISBN's for your hard copies (CreateSpace) for free. Yes you can only use them with Amazon but so what?! If you go to Smashwords they'll give you ISBN's to publish on their site - and the sites they publish through like Apple. Same with D2D and Lulu. So just what exactly do you think you're going to gain by using your own ISBN? Are you actually planning on ringing up bookstores and asking them to sell your books which you'll order and provide for them? Because that's the only reason you would want them.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Continuity.
    From the little poking around I've done it looks like a person would need 3 ISBN's per book (Print, Amazon Kindle, Smashwords) but why would you multiple agencies listed as the publisher of record?
    If someone purchases their own ISBN they can use it on both Amazon's CreateSpace and IngramSpark, which means the book is searchable by a unique ISBN and allow for wider distribution. If you get the free ISBN from CreateSpace you cannot use if for IngramSpark, so would need to purchase an ISBN to distribute through them anyway.
     
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  10. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Yes--it seems like just having a bunch on hand is the way to go. I suppose that if I never get around to using them, I can bequeath each of my children ISBN's in my will. I'm sure they'll really appreciate that. :p
     
  11. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you ever searched for a self-published book using the ISBN? I never have...
     
  12. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Khalie,

    No you can't. Each printed edition of a book by each publisher needs its own ISBN. (The Kindle edition doesn't need one at all though.) So you can't simply use your own ISBN to put the book out through multiple publishers. You have to be the only publisher of record for the book, so you would have to sell your book on Amazon say as your book published by you. CreateSpace will let you do that - once (it will ask you to provide the ISBN if that's your choice), but if you put out a new edition it needs a different ISBN to distinguish it from your first published edition. You can't reuse them. Likewise if you put it out on say D2D, Smashwords, Apple or Ingrim Spark, you can't use the same ISBN to put out editions on their platforms even if they're identical to the CreateSpace one. You would actually have to provide them with the already printed books and get Amazon to sell them as stock items. Barns and Noble say might do that. Indie publishers not so much.

    Use the ISBN's they provide for free and either save the money or invest it into your cover, editing or marketing.

    Oh and as previously said, no one searches for books by ISBN.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  13. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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  14. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Seems my reply was missing above.

    Anyway--I alway tell students to search by ISBN, as do a lot of other instructors.

    Is there anything to prevent me from purchasing a block of 10 and then selling or distributing them to others? One of the biology profs is interested, too, but has resisted the push to publish course packets because of costs. If he & I can share the backend cost that would make it more appealing.
     
  15. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'd be listed as the publisher. Or whomever you put down as the publisher would be listed as the publisher. So sharing wouldn't work all that well, unless you all agreed on a publisher name, address, contact information, etc.

    Does your campus bookstore not offer course materials packages? I'd think they'd be well-equipped to manage things without ISBNs. I mean, you're not going to be selling course materials anywhere but locally, right?
     
  16. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    @BayView The campus Press does course packets as most science & engineering courses have them, but they charge the students $20 for them and you have to pick them up from the main campus in Spokane because outreach campuses don't have bookstores. Most students are unwilling to drive 100 miles into Spokane, then pay $20 for the syllabus. Heck, I don't want to drive the 100 miles into Spokane, even when they are paying me.

    Our school uses Angel and course material is uploaded there, but Angel is not android compatable. In the last 2 years we've seen a huge increase in the number of students who want to complete the entire course on their phones. (And complain when I say evering is on Angel.)

    We are faceing a $2 mill budget shortfall and paper/coping is being cut, so handouts are being scrutinized. A lot of us think its wrong to expect students to pay for the syllabus. If we 'self publish' the kids can download for free, or 99 cents, to whatever device they use and if they want paper copies, they can order those when they buy the rest of their books and get the free shipping.

    It's just an idea we're kicking around right now.
     
  17. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Would there be copyright issues? I assume you're using mostly other people's articles under a Educational fair use exemption? (Or maybe you're writing all the course materials yourself--I never had a prof do that, but maybe?) But if you're using the fair use doctrine you'd need to be careful that there was no potential for your reproduction of someone's materials to interfere with the potential profit of the original creator, in which case I think it would be a bad idea for the work to be made broadly available.
     
  18. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's late and I don't have the energy to go into all of this, but I've done a good bit of research since I started this thread and the information I've come up with doesn't quite agree with this.

    First of all, please note that if you own your own ISBN, you are the publisher, and CreateSpace or IngramSpark are merely the printers/distributors. If you use the ISBN provided by CreateSpace or some other third-party ISBN reseller, they are the publisher. If you're fine with that, cool. Let them be the publisher.

    But you don't have that option on Ingram. They only work directly with original publishers, so if your book is already listed as published by CreateSpace by virtue of its CS-issued ISBN, they won't print and distribute it again under that number. To print and distribute through them you have to get out of CreateSpace's Expanded Distribution program, then you must provide your own ISBN; they won't issue you one. (However, IS will get you a discount from Bowker if you order your own ISBN through your IS account.)

    You do not need a separate ISBN each time you use a different printer/distributor for your printed book; you do need a separate one for each format (paperback, hardcover, etc.), or trim size. So I could take one paperback of the same size, content, and cover and have CreateSpace, Lulu, or whomever print and distribute it all under one ISBN.

    The same applies to digital publication. Kindle uses the .MOBI format, whereas Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and so on use .epub. (Useful link here, and another one, here.) So if you decide to assign your Kindle ebook an ISBN (which, yeah, isn't technically required to get it out on Amazon), it cannot be the same as the one you'd give the .epub version you put out via most everyone else. The impression that you need a separate ISBN for every ebook distributor may arise because most people publish on Kindle first. When they find out that, say, B&N's format is different, they erroneously reason that Apple's, Kobo's, etc., formats are all different things again. But they aren't. From what I read, they're all .epub. (Here's a link to the International ISBN Agency's guidelines, which may make things clearer.)

    Yes, you would need a new ISBN for a new edition, print or digital, but "edition" is defined by content. As in, you made a major revision to the story, or added a Foreword, or put in illustrations, or changed the cover. Whereas you can do additional print runs of the same content from now to the Apocalypse and the original ISBN would still be good.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2016
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  19. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    You wouldn't need an ISBN for your course packets/syllabi because they're to be distributed strictly in-house. Moreover, they're time-limited. ISBNs are for works we intend to push out into the Big World for all time.

    By "publishing" the course packets, do you mean putting them up on Amazon? Is there any particular reason why anyone at your university is considering that? Seems to me the files could simply be linked as a pdf on each department's webpage, and the students could download and read them regardless of what kind of computer or device they have. What advantage does this Angel program provide?

    You cannot give away or reassign the ISBNs you have purchased. You can will an entire block or the remainder of a given block of them to a single heir, but you cannot split them up among several heirs.

    It's all on the Bowker website.
     
  20. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Syllabi aren't time limited. I've been using the same ones for about 5 years. The only thing that changes is the course calendar and that's a single sheet of paper. The Syllabi is 5 pages of crap that has been cut and pasted from the State website/School website, that is the "contract" with the student. It outlines course directives, disability accommodations, attendance policies, disciplinary action for plagiarism, etc. as approved and mandated by the state legislature &/or the school's office of legal counsel. It's the same with all the other handouts. I've been using the same IOUSA assignments for Macro since 2009.

    It was the History/Women's studies teacher's idea. Susan said she started doing this a couple of years ago because she regularly teaches at 3 different institutions. Women's studies apparently has a pretty hefty course packet and she got tired of dealing with 3 school presses, 3 course shells, etc. especially since the information was the same for all three. So, she published it and just gives each book store her ISBN and they order it like they would any other book. It's also considerably cheaper for the students. Instead of paying $20 at the bookstore for a course packet, they can get an online download for free or buy a paper version for $10, which is shipped directly to their door, so they won't have to drive all the way into Spokane to get it from the bookstore.

    My unchanging content runs 45 pages (Macro) and 49 pages (Micro) per student and Steve said he hands out upwards of 70 pages per student, which is why his department has been pushing him to go the course packet route. Of my content 23 pages (Macro) and 26 pages (Micro) get handed out in class AND posted on Angel. The rest are only available on Angel, but last spring 1/5 of my students couldn't access those pages because they were trying to complete the entire course from their phone. And I expect that number to continue to increase.

    We actually have very little control over what can be posted to departmental webpages. Because those are how the school chooses to represent themselves to the world, everything must be approved by the Public Relations and Communications office and occasionally the Office of Legal Counsel. I don't know that they would want to do that for syllabi, etc. but I can ask.

    Angel is a course shell for online and hybrid class, similar to Blackboard and Canvas. I teach at an outreach campus at the southern end of the district and occasionally have ITV students at the northern end of the district, 225 miles away. Angel is how students turn in homework and how I distribute course information. It also contains the gradebook, has discussion features, and the ability to embed video/PowerPoint directly into the course modules.

    However, in recent years even live classes have started using course shells because of the CYA for professors. Everything is date-stamped in Angel, so if a student claims I never provided information on the requirements for their term paper, or that I didn't make that information available until the date before the paper was due, I can pull the date stamp from Angel and prove that the information was available continuously starting two weeks prior to the start of classes and was still available after the assignment was due during finals week.

    Well, that's a bummer.
     
  21. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Oh, I see. A lot has changed since I was in grad school. Back then (in the 1990s), the syllabus was just a couple of pages per class, and most everything was taught out of textbooks or books out of the school library. Fairly affordable textbooks, I might add; none of this $300 a pop chozzerai.

    Well, if epublishing is an effective way to go, I'm sure the uni could come up with the funds for an appropriately-sized block of ISBNs from Bowker, especially if it's going to save them printing fees.

    And somebody (or several somebodies) needs to put pressure on Angel to make the software Android compatible. I mean, really.
     
  22. KhalieLa
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    KhalieLa It's not a lie, it's fiction. Contributor

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    Yes--we do way more hand holding now.

    My class still runs out of the book. ($287.26 on Amazon this morning), it's the hand holding that eats up the paper. Every test gets a study guide (5 tests @ 1 sheet of paper, front & back each = 10 pages). In class assignments have handouts because students shouldn't be expected to bring their own paper. Plus I need to CYA by making sure that the instructions are clearly stated at the top of each assignment (that's another 8 to 10 pages.) You can't just tell them they need to write a 5 page term paper, you have to hand out a sheet with specific instructions on font, margins, content, sources, etc AND include a grading rubric (2 more pages.)

    I long for the good old days when laptops weren't open in class, students had pens & paper, and simply saying something in class, like, "You need to complete study questions 2, 7, & 9 at the end of the chapter," didn't need to be followed up with a handout in class, a handout posted in the course shell, and a reminder upload to the online academic calendar, which generates auto reminders for every student enrolled in that section of the course.
     
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  23. Catrin Lewis
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    Catrin Lewis Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ho boy. Yeah.

    However, as a former student, for major papers I would have appreciated having the rubric in writing. Unlike, say, the Environmental Technology term paper where the prof posted the formatting instructions on a single piece of paper tacked to the wall on the hinge side of the classroom door. I mean, behind the door. Really. I was sick the day he told the class about it, and the next time I was there somebody had pushed some empty desks up against that wall and I wasn't up to clearing them away to get to the formatting rubric. I mean, I'd asked a friend and she'd said requirements weren't anything special . . . So I worked my tail off researching and writing my paper on pipe organ acoustics (a damn good paper if you ask me) and submitted it in the format that every other prof had always accepted. But this a-hole (who, as his reputation went, blew dead bears) wouldn't even look at it because it didn't have the kind of cover he wanted. Well, hellsbells, if it's that important, make it easier for people to get at the instructions. But then, he was a piece of work who enjoyed flunking people out of the Architecture program, especially women. He tried and failed to do it to me when I had him for design studio. Fortunately for me, I had enough credits in E-Tech that I survived that class, too.

    But enough of the trip down memory lane. If the university has a publishing arm, that would be the agency to buy the ISBNs. You'd think they'd have some on hand anyway. As for the profs who teach at more than one school, I guess they're on their own.
     
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  24. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi Katrin,

    Reread your own reference. If you need an ISBN for ebooks, it isn't only the file format / edition that's the defining issue in determining whether the book needs a new ISBN from the one you had on another ebook distribution network. It includes any significant changes in the software - not just whether it's ePUB or Mobi files. Think DRM and the proprietary rights the publisher grants readers - such as the ability to copy / print etc.

    Fortunately for ebooks Amazon does not require an ISBN, and no retailer of ebooks that provides an exclusive format only for their customers does either. So why bother?

    Next paper: As you said edition. But edition is not solely defined by content. Yes change the content and it's a new edition. But change the print size, hard back vs soft cover, or cover and it's also a new edition and requires a new ISBN. To add to your woes, if you do put out a paper edition with exactly the same content on D2D, CS and Lulu etc, each printer has its own printing format etc which includes things like paper size, font, font size, margins, some of which you will alter yourself. If the book that comes out on one printery is say a different length to another - which is very likely - where do you stand on whether the two books are the same edition? You could end up in breach of technical requirements even if the companies allowed you to reuse the same ISBN.

    But the bottom line here is not one of compliance with technical requirements. It comes down to practicality. You are an indie author I assume. You want to sell your books and make a return. Why waste money on something you don't need? If all the major publishers provide ISBN's for free, do it. There is no advantage to not doing it.

    And this idea previously mentioned by others of using ISBN's as a search index - that's absolute rubbish. I spent an inordinate number of years as a student, and if any lecturer assigned a book for me to read they didn't give me an ISBN to search it out by. They gave me an author and title and edition like anyone else would. And when I used to lecture, I did the same. Why would I give someone a thirteen digit number that they could get wrong and then come to an infectious diseases class with a cookery book?

    So save your money, and invest it on your cover, your editing, your marketing etc.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  25. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    The warnings about ISBNs are obviously US-centric... if you live somewhere that ISBNs are free or cheap, it's a different story.

    And I'm not sure (because I live in a free-ISBN country) but I think the numbers provided by Amazon and, I assume, other retailers, aren't actually ISBNs... I think they're in-house identifying numbers that do parts of the job of ISBNs, but aren't actually registered with the central ISBN organization? Again, I don't think it's all that important for self-publishers to be registered with the central ISBN people, but...
     
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