If you’re an aspiring author, one of the questions you might have asked is: does an ebook need ISBN? 

For sure, printed books use ISBN. But when it comes to ebooks, is it necessary? The ISBN is just a 13-digit number and an internationally applicable book identifier. 

In this post, we’ll discuss the need for ISBN in ebooks. Is it necessary for authors to use them? Here’s all you need to know.  

What Is ISBN?

The ISBN is a product identifier commonly used by booksellers, publishers, libraries, internet retailers, and other supply chain participants for listing, ordering, keeping sales records, and stock management purposes.

The ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique 13-digit number. It used to be 10 numbers at the end of 2006. In January 2007, it was changed to 13 numbers, which has been the case since then. 

How is the ISBN assigned to a book? Affiliate of the International ISBN assigns the ISBN to interested individuals. However, this numeric commercial book identifier isn’t free. 

Here’s an example of the ISBN: 978-3-16-48410-0. 

This number is determined via a special mathematical formula. ISBN is a unique number. No two different books have the same ISBN. 

When Did ISBN Start? 

The first ISBN was assigned to a book titled “Adventures of Tom Sawyer” written by Mark Twain in 1967. 

 W.H. Smith, one of the biggest publishers in the United Kingdom, started the ISBN. W.H. was planning to move to a computerized setting and wanted a unique way to classify the books for easy management. 

The ISBN was introduced in 1966, though it was put into use one year later. 

Does eBook Need ISBN?

Yes, ebooks need ISBNs. However, authors don’t need ISBNs to sell their ebooks on Amazon. In fact, reports show that 24 percent of all ebook dollars made on Amazon go to ebooks published without ISBNs. 

Other reports have also stated that United States consumers alone spend around $550 million on books without ISBN. 

Getting an ISBN for your book isn’t a bad idea. But remember that people won’t criticize or refuse to purchase your book if it doesn’t have an ISBN. 

On the other hand, you can publish and sell your book on top online book retailers like Amazon without ISBN. Other top online ebook retailers don’t require ISBN as well. 

In other words, ISBN isn’t a criterion to publish or sell your ebook on Amazon and other top ebook retailers. 

A Handy Tip: It’s not advisable to publish a printed book without ISBN. You’re going to require an ISBN to sell your printed books. 

How Much Does ISBN Cost In The United States of America? 

To purchase an ISBN for a book is $125. That’s how much one ISBN cost. For 10 ISBNs, you’ll pay $295.

So, one ISBN costs $125, while 10 ISBNs cost $295. You can see that the more ISBN you purchase, the lesser the price. 

A Handy Tip: You need an ISBN for each version of your book. 

Another thing you need to know is that ISBN is unique. There are no two books with the same ISBN. Additionally, ISBN doesn’t expire. Once assigned, it will stick with the book for life. 

Can You Publish An eBook On Amazon Without ISBN? 

Amazon’s versatility sets the platform apart. They offer new and existing authors the opportunity to sell their books and make money on the platform. 

You can publish a book on Amazon without an ISBN. But if you have an ISBN, use it. There is nothing wrong with using an ISBN for an ebook. 

When you publish your book on Amazon without an ISBN, the e-commerce giant will assign your book an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). 

The ASIN is ten digits; it comprises numbers and letters, too. 

Note that ASIN is used within Amazon’s system to identify products. It is different from ISBN. 

While ISBN contains only numbers, ASIN includes both numbers and letters.  

A Handy Tip: ISBN doesn’t expire. 

How Long Does It Take To Obtain An ISBN?

Bowker offers three options. These include non-priority, priority, and express. For non-priority orders, it will take around five business days to get your ISBN. Priority order takes about two business days.

The fastest is express. For express orders, you’ll get your ISBN within 24 hours. 

A Handy Tip: You can only make use of an ISBN assigned to you once. In other words, you can only use an ISBN for that particular book and nothing more. You can’t use it for different versions of the same book.   

How Is ISBN Important?

ISBNs are quite useful to the publishing industry worldwide. They offer a standard way of identifying books, including other publications. 

Publishers, libraries, and booksellers use ISBN to track sales and inventory. Readers also use them too. 

Books that possess ISBN allow readers to identify and buy books online and offline easily. So, they are quite relevant.  

Does ISBN Convey Copyright Protection On An eBook? 

No, the ISBN doesn’t give books any copyright or legal protection. It is just an identifier. 

In some countries, things have changed regarding the use of ISBN. They have made the use of ISBN for the identification of publications a legal requirement. 

Why Is ISBN Use Recommended?

There are several reasons book publishers, authors, and even distributors should get an ISBN. If you’re one of them and you plan to get your book to a wider audience, it will make sense to get this unique identifier. 

Let’s discuss some of the reasons. 

  • Boost credibility: When an author publishes a book with an ISBN, both the author and the book will appear credible to the targeted audience. The number indicates that the book was professionally published in the first place and is now one of the books in the global publishing industry. 
  • Makes the book discoverable: ISBN can increase your book’s visibility. It will make it easier for potential readers to find and purchase your book. 
  • Encourages proper distribution of your book: An ISBN makes it a breeze for your book to be distributed across diverse channels. It also makes it easier for distributors to track inventory, including book sales. 
  • ISBN is required for copyright registration: In most countries, you’ll need your ISBN before you can register for copyrights. 
  • Makes international distribution of books a breeze: ISBN is operational in around 200 countries. This makes it important for authors seeking to sell their books internationally. The ISBN will make identifying and tracking your book in other countries a breeze. 
  • Makes it easier to add a book to libraries: Having an ISBN allows your book to be added to libraries that require ISBN. Libraries use ISBN for the identification and cataloging of books in a collection. So, having this number makes it easier for libraries that need ISBNs to include your book in their collection.  

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What book formats require ISBN?

You can acquire ISBN for any book format. These include paperbacks, ebooks, hardcovers, and even audiobooks. 

2. What happens if a book has no ISBN:

If you’re planning to sell your book online, nothing will happen. You can sell your ebooks online without ISBN. If you wish to sell your book on Amazon, the platform will assign your book an ASIN, a ten-digit number consisting of letters. ASIN is similar to ISBN. 

However, if you’re planning to sell your book offline, not having an ISBN can be a bad idea. Most bookstores don’t accept books without ISBNs. 

3. Does ISBN have an expiry date?

ISBN doesn’t expire. Additionally, you can only use an ISBN for the same product or book it was assigned to. 

4. Do you have to pay the renewal fee for ISBN?

The ISBN fee is a one-time payment. You won’t be paying renewal at any point. 

5. Can you have the same ISBN on two different books?

No, you can’t. Even the revised version of the same book will have a new ISBN, even if it has the same title as the original book. 

The ISBN is a unique number and identifier. You can have the same ISBN on two books. If this happens, then one of the books is a fake one.


 Does the ebook need ISBN? No, the ebook doesn’t require ISBN. But if you want to get it for your ebook, there is nothing wrong with that. 

You can use ISBN for ebooks, audiobooks, paperbacks, and even hardcovers. Just bear in mind that you can sell your ebook online with ISBN. Amazon and other top retailers permit this. 

When you upload your book to Amazon without ISBN, the platform will assign your book an ASIN. The ASIN is a ten-digit number (also mixed with letters) that operates like ISBN. 

Getting a top-quality back cover for your ebook should be a top priority for every author. That’s why we’re the eBook Cover Design service for new and established authors. 

If you want your ebook to stand out and capture a wider audience, let us help with your book cover design.  

Latoya Fernandez

Latoya Fernandez

Latoya Fernandez is a multi-talented professional, serving as both an ebook designer and a prolific blogger. With a keen eye for design and a passion for literature, Latoya specializes in crafting visually stunning ebook covers and layouts that breathe life into written works. Simultaneously, she shares her insights and expertise in the world of design and self-publishing through her engaging blog posts. Latoya is dedicated to helping authors realize their creative visions and offers valuable insights to fellow writers and designers through her informative blog.