Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Zombie Apocalypse

This post is not actually about the Zombie Apocalypse.  It is about ISBNs as they pertain to ebooks.  But if I said that up front you wouldn’t be reading it now.

When people start talking about mundane things such as ISBN’s, I just want to shoot myself.  However, this is one subject that each self-publishing author must explore.  After asking my husband to hide all of the firearms, I started in on the research.

The Rundown

An ISBN—which stands for International Standard Book Number, is your book’s ID number.  You do not need an ISBN if you only plan to distribute your work as an ebook.  Amazon does not require ebooks to have an ISBN for the Kindle.  Same goes for Barnes and Nobles and the Nook.  However, Apples iBook Store and Sony do require ISBN’s for their ebooks.  If you publish via Smashwords, and do not have and ISBN, your book won’t be available on these mediums.

Each format through which you publish your book requires its own ISBN because this thirteen-digit numeral unmistakably identifies the title, edition, binding, and publisher of a given work. So your paper book will have its own ISBN, the audio book will have its own ISBN, and the ebook its own ISBN.  Never use the same ISBN for your ebook as you did on your printed version.

The Cost

If you purchase an ISBN directly from the operating agency, Bowker, it will cost you $125 for one (plus additional charges for the actual barcode), or $250 for a block of ten.  

Smashwords will provide an ISBN for you for free.  However, I have read (this is not substantiated) if you use this ISBN to publish directly to others (i.e. Nook and Kindle), you still have to include the ‘Smashwords Edition’ notice on your copyright or front-matter page.  I e-mailed Amazon and Smashwords both to ask if I could use the Smashwords-issued ISBN for my Amazon published ebook.  Amazon responded with “If you've already obtained an ISBN for your eBook, you may enter it in the Book Details when publishing in KDP. However, it will only be used as a reference and won't actually appear on the detail page of your eBook.”  Not too helpful, but they didn’t say no.  Smashwords also responded with, "Since we provide the ISBN as a free benefit of distributing with Smashwords, it wouldn't be appropriate for you to use the ISBN elsewhere.  We don't enforce this, and we really don't care all that much."

If you choose to let Smashwords issue an ISBN for you, the Bowker record will register Smashwords as your publisher.  Smashwords claims this in no way makes Smashwords your legal publisher since the Bowker record has no legal bearing over ownership of material.  If this does not sit well with you, you can pay $9.95 to Smashwords, and they will give you an ISBN that registers you, the author, as the publisher.  However, there are claims that doing this will result in junk mail and solicitations (probably the same as if you registered directly with the Bowker agency).

Some countries (including Canada, I think), give out ISBN’s for free.  Yet another reason to move to Canada.  Plus, I like moose.


All that said, an ISBN is necessary for inclusion in the Smashwords Premium Catalogue.  The Premium Catalogue allows for distribution to: Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, the Diesel eBook Store and major mobile app marketplaces including Apple, Android, Windows Phone 7 and HP's WebOS. 

So, in conclusion, the benefits to purchasing an ISBN for your ebook are (1) inclusion into more markets and (2) your ebook will be listed in Bowker's "Books in Print" which will allow it to be listed and searched by any other database (such as WorldCat) that takes a feed from Bowker (translation: more marketing, kind of). 

Knowing all this, I have decided to get the ISBN through Smashwords for free.  I won’t include it on the Amazon and B&N portals because that offers no benefit (since Smashwords also publishes my book through these portals, anyone searching by the ISBN will come up with the Smashwords edition).


And since we are on the topic of very boring subjects, let’s talk copyrights.  But only briefly because I think I’ve discovered where Nick hid the Glock.  Your material is essentially ‘copyrighted’ as soon as you create it.  The only reason why you would need to register with the U.S. Copyright Office is if you wish to sue someone for infringement of your material. Not sure what prompted me to do it, but I copyrighted my short story, my full length novel, and the four next novels in the series (which have yet to be written) all on the same claim.  Cost for registration is $30. You can register online without actually having to submit content of materials.

Zombie Apocalypse

And for those thoroughly disappointed by my blog subject, maybe this will satisfy: A preparedness guide put out by the CDC themselves for – you guessed it – the zombie apocalypse. A Cracked Article that explains how/why this event could actually occur. Something more to further encourage your avoidance in going back to work/chores/bills. If you don't know what this is; read the link.  The perfect shirt for the zombie apocalypse.

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