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Do I need to buy an ISBN when publishing my own book?

Published at 
30 September 2022

If you buy a book from the bookstore or borrow one from the library, it has an ISBN. But do you also need such a number for self-publishing your book? Better yet, you can get one for yourself at all? And what about self-publishing a translated book?

I asked myself these questions and more when I decided to self-publish my book. In this post you will find everything you need to know about it.

[ Note, some of the information may only apply in the Netherlands. ]

What is an ISBN?

First, let's quickly clarify what an ISBN is. ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number” and is a unique identifier for almost all book editions worldwide.

An ISBN consists of 13 digits. The first digits are the EAN code, currently 978.

The next numbers identify is the registration group, generally the country, but this may also indicate a language area. For example, the Netherlands/Dutch-speaking number is 90 and Dutch-speaking Belgium is 94.

The publisher's name follows. For example, the number 02 is the Standaard Uitgeverij in the Netherlands. It can be up to 6 digits long, these are used by agencies that will issue 10 titles at most.

The next digit in the series identifies the title of the work and last is the control number.

Booksellers and libraries use an ISBN to find and process books.

Do you need an ISBN when you publish your own book?

An ISBN is not required for every book. If you publish something for your own use only, it is not necessary. When you give away a book to customers or use it in training courses, it is advisable to have an ISBN.

If you want your book to be sold in bookstores or be borrowed in libraries, you need an ISBN.

If you use multiple avenues to have your book printed and distributed, for example Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, it is also wise to purchase your own ISBN. All books, regardless of where printed, will then have the same ISBN.

How can you buy an ISBN?

In the Netherlands, the only official location to purchase ISBNs is

There are parties that sell you a ISBN through their platform or sometimes give a free ISBN, when you use this your book is linked to this party's publisher designation. In other words, they are seen as the publisher. There are also parties that ask you a low rate, even then they will be seen as a publisher.

What does an ISBN cost?

When purchasing an ISBN you have several choices, some of which are only interesting for larger parties. Below are the two most interesting options and the costs.

1 ISBN€ 106.66 excl.
10 ISBNs€ 276.57 excl.

If you plan to publish several books, it makes sense to buy the pack of 10 ISBNs. See also “When do you need a new ISBN for your book?” and “Do hardcover, paperback, eBook, and audiobook have the same ISBN?” for more on how many you may need.

Reselling your ISBNs to third parties is not allowed. For more information about purchasing an ISBN, see

Before you can purchase an ISBN, you need a publisher's designation. Those numbers after the registration group. You can request this directly when you request an ISBN.

Do you need a Chamber of Commerce registration to purchase an ISBN?

You do not need a Chamber of Commerce registration to apply for an ISBN yourself.

How do I purchase an ISBN for translation of my book?

You can also do this via, if you are located in the Netherlands yourself. If you live in another country, you must go through the ISBN registration office of that country.

Note that if you translate your book it will need its own ISBN.

When do I need a new ISBN for my book?

You need a new ISBN for substantive changes, except for corrections in spelling, sentence structure and layout.

When do I not need a new ISBN for my book?

When you reprint your book without changing the content or publisher.

When you change the cover of your book, but not the content. If you want to do this for your own registration, you can. (Some readers may also like this if they want a specific cover.)

Do hardcover, paperback, e-book and audiobook each have their own ISBN?

Hardcover, paperback, e-book and audiobook each are different publications and therefore each have their own ISBN. So if you have one book and you publish it in all four forms, you need four ISBNs.

How do I register my book on the ISBN?

When purchasing your ISBNs, you do not have to enter all your titles directly for each ISBN. However, before publishing your book, you are required to provide certain information to the ISBN registration agency. This can be done at (or the registration of your country).

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