How ISBN is important for getting book Published

 As a book lover, you might have often wondered what the purpose of those series of numbers printed on the back cover of your book is. Well, those numbers are not there without any reason. They are called the 'ISBN' code. 


Many of us might not have ever paid attention to those numbers ever, despite being avid readers. And I was one of those people until last week. What changed that? Well, I was playing a breakout escape room in bangalore with my friends, and it turned out the ISBN code of a book on the shelf was the final code that we needed to escape the room. But since none of us knew what an ISBN code was, we lost the game. 


But the best thing about escape rooms is that even if you lose, you get to learn something. And today, I wanted to share this new concept I learned with fellow book-nerds.  

What is an ISBN? 

The ISBN or the International Standard Book Number is a 13-digit code that is unique to every book. It functions much like an identification number that holds worldwide recognition.  


The International ISBN Agency situated in London is the place to register for an ISBN from all across the world. Publishers acquire ISBNs from a suitable affiliate of the International ISBN Agency. A separate ISBN is provided to each different edition and variation of even the same book. Till around the end of December 2006, the ISBN comprised 10 digits. But eventually, from the start of the next year, they were made up of 13 digits.  


An ISBN is not just prepared by including random numbers. Instead, there is a specific mathematical formula that is used to prepare it. The ISBN identifies several factors of the book like, the registrant, title, edition number, format of publication, etc.  


However, just because there is an ISBN printed on the book cover does not mean that it is copyright protected.   

What is included in the structure of ISBN? 

The 13-digit long ISBN structure comprises the following elements that are essential to track the book: 

  1. Prefix element – The initial 3 digits of the ISBN is together called the prefix element. 

  2. Registration group element – This part of the ISBN helps in identifying the registrant of the book, starting from country and specific geographical location to the linguistic area from where the book originates are all specified here.  

  3. Registrant element – The third element of the ISBN works in identifying a particular publisher of the book and the imprint.  

  4. Publication element – This element of the ISBN helps in identifying a specific edition number of a certain publisher.  

  5. Check digit – The final element of the ISBN works in mathematically validating the entire ISBN code for a certain book.   


What makes ISBN so beneficial to use? 

As you can guess by now, this 13-digit number at the back of your books has quite a lot of importance, and let's find out how.  

  • It functions as a unique identifier for a monographic publication 

  • The proper usage of ISBN c in the case of different editions and forms of the same book makes it easier to track each different edition.  

  • It makes way for bringing together and updating book-trade directories to make them more comprehensible.  

  • It also helps in ordering and distributing books without any mistakes in the process. Thus, inventory control and regulation become much easier than before with ISBN in place.  

  • The 13-digit EAN-13 bar code can also be read by machines to make it easier for you.  

  • An ISBN cannot be reused even if the book in question is no longer available in the market. It thus ensures that every book retains a unique identification number that is similar to none other in the market.   

Why do book publishers and authors stress so much on ISBN? 

Being a unique identification code for every book, an ISBN helps customers to easily identify a book they want and thus buy it. Libraries, Bookstores, and even wholesalers all benefit from the use of ISBN as it makes it easy to track their purchases and sales. As an author, getting an ISBN becomes essential to commercialize the product in the market. 


Some of the reasons that make the use of ISBN so essential are as under:  

  • By getting an ISBN for a book, authors and publishers can easily check on and ensure that the book gains a wide reach in the market. It further even helps in maximizing the potential of prospective sales in the market.  

  • For every publisher or bookseller, using the ISBN is helpful to streamline the process of sales and make it much more hackle-free and easy to track. Most booksellers tend not to sell a book if its ISBN is not listed in their warehouse database.  

  • Following the publication of a certain book, one needs to contact the ISBN Agency of the respective country mandatorily.  

  • ISBN further becomes essential in the case of book catalogs which may be circulated amongst your audience.  

  • ISBN is also needed to sell a certain book on online retail platforms all across the world, like Amazon, Flipkart, and others. To make your book available for distribution across multiple channels, the presence of ISBN becomes essential.   


Authors need to remain extra cautious in applying for a new ISBN whenever any of the following situations happen: 

  • When new edits are being made in the book and thus making it a revised or new edition of the previous version. 

  • When an author is changing the publisher who publishes the book.  

  • When the title of the book is changed or modified.  

  • When the original version of the book is being translated into another language.   

How important is getting an ISBN for your book? 

Well, if you are only publishing your book to distribute a few copies amongst your friends and family, getting an ISBN is not that necessary. Further, if you are thinking about selling ebook versions of your book through retailers who are flexible about ISBN, you may also avoid getting it.  


Data shows that approximately 43% of the e-books that are purchased on a well-known brand like Amazon do not have an ISBN. Consumers in the US book markets are found to spend as much as 550 million dollars on e-books that do not have an ISBN. 


However, as an author, you must also be aware of the following disadvantages of not using an ISBN: 

  • Your book would remain forever inaccessible to people who prefer hard copies of books.  

  • There might be some online retailers who may refuse to keep your e-book for sale on their platforms. 

  • Your book would not be listed in the worldwide bibliographic record of books.  


It is fascinating to think how so many little details come together to make something as frequent as book publishing happen. And both as an author and a reader, knowing these tidbits allow us to appreciate the process better. 


 Author Bio:  Aniya more is one of the brightest content writer at Breakout escape rooms. She is a passionate writer who loves to read books and explore different escape rooms. With a great work ethic, she spends most of her time researching and reading. When she is not working, she likes to relax with a cup of coffee and enjoy watching her favorite tv show or walking her dog peanut. You can find her on LinkedIn.