ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) are unique identifiers, those little numbers on the back of a print book with the barcode, that help traditional book stores search for and order your books. You need an ISBN for each format of a book you plan to publish….soft cover, hard cover, and ebook. And for ebook, you need one for each electronic format. Kindle, iBooks, Nook, etc, these all have different file formats they use, thus you need an ISBN for each. So you are potentially looking at a lot of ISBNs per book you publish.
BUT!!!… there is an up side to this. When you submit a book for ebook format, you are not required to purchase an ISBN. The ebook publisher such as Smashwords or Amazon can take care of this for free. When you are looking at getting a book in print, you will need an ISBN for soft cover and a separate ISBN for hard cover. You can get ISBNs through your publisher, or you can opt to purchase them yourself for your print books. Purchasing them yourself means you hold the ISBN as “the publisher.”
Purchasing ISBNs to hold as your own isn’t cheap, but there are some good bulk ordering packages. So if you are writing a trilogy to have in both soft and hard copy, you’ll have six ISBNs right there. Bowker is a resource for purchasing individual or bulk ISBNs. You can get one ISBN for $125, or buy a set of 10 ISBNs for $250. And the packages go up from there. However, by ordering in bulk, you get more ISBNs for a lower $:ISBN ratio.
Bowker also offers the purchase of bar codes for your book while you purchase the ISBNs, but these come at $25 each. So if you got 10 ISBNs, you’re looking at another $250 for bar codes if you opt to purchase them through Bowker.
However, there is a free resource (you can opt to donate to the cause as a means of thanks for a free service that just saved you some major bank) for creating bar codes available at:
Indie publishing doesn’t have to break the bank. There are options available to keep costs down. And if you opt to only publish your book electronically, you don’t even have to deal with any cost whatsoever for ISBNs or barcodes. Let your ebook publisher take care of that for you.