ISBN Numbers - a must-have touch of immortality and omnipresence

That innocuous 13 digit number on the back of a new book, with its accompanying barcode, is both your chance for a slice of immortality and to achieve a worldwide presence. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number, and for the book industry it is THE common identifier for each indivudal book recorded. Libraries use it, publishers use it and book sellers definitely use it worldwide. The ISBN not only identifies the book, it also identifies the publisher for book orders. As part of having an ISBN in the UK, you (or your publisher) are lagally required to send in a copy of your book with the new ISBN, free of charge, to the British Library within a month of publication, thus ensuring your legacy for at least current civilisation.

Because of their importance, ISBN's are administered internationally by the International ISBN Agency, However, to obtain an ISBN, you need to contact your National ISBN Agency (you can find an alphabetical country listing here). In the UK, this ervice is provided by Nielsen UK ISBN Agency, in Germany by ISBN-Agentur für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland and in the US by R.R. Bowker LLC.

Nielsen give  good set of answers to frequently asked FAQs about what ISBNs are, who can purchase them and for what products here

In the UK, publishers have to purchase ISBNs in a minimum batch of 10. Each book to be published is then given one of the publishers ISBNs and registered with Nielsen. This can nowadays be done online. The information given is essentially, the title of the book, the author, subject type of book (fiction or non fiction in a variety of categories), physical form (paperback or hardback, number of pages etc.). An image of the book cover can be included. This information is then picked up by the bookselling industry,e.g. by Amazon or bookstores if they wish to access information.

Once you own your ISBNs, the basic registration of each book is free and publishers can also utilise a basic free online ordering system provided by PubWeb, where booksellers can order individual books from the publishers..

It is possible to add a lot more information, e.g. book summary, author's bio and additonal information with an enhanced listing service by Nielson BookData UK. However, this is charged for per book with a minimum annual subscription. For low volume publishers and authors, there are other routes that can be taken at a reduced or no cost (see future atrticles on Amazon and sales strategies).

I should interject a note of caution here too. Remember that whilst your unique ISBN identifies your book and publisher for all the world, there are milllions of other new books registered too. This is where the sales and marketing of your book becomes very important - a subject for another future article.

In summary: ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) are a key tool for authors and publishers to register their books so that they can be accessed by all facets of the book industry, including booksellers and online stores. This article provides information and useful links on how ISBNs give your book a touch of immortality and global presence - alongside milleions of other books worldwide.