The Importance of an ISBN for Your eBook

Recently, I stumbled on an online article entitled How to Become a Kindle Author. Its unnamed author explained in the article that, when publishing on Kindle, it is unnecessary to obtain an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your Kindle eBook since it is assigned an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identifier Number) by Amazon, which is the sole distributor of the Kindle edition. Barnes and Noble doesn’t require an ISBN.

However, what about eBook authors who publish with other publishers (e.g., Smashwords) in order to maximize their chances for worldwide book sales? If an eBook author wishes to make his/her book available to all eReader and iReader devices, it would seem prudent to publish with at least one eBook publisher/distributor which offers the ISBN option.

According to Mark Coker, CEO of, the ISBN is so essential to acceptance by two of Smashwords’ largest retail partners, Apple and Sony, he requires an ISBN for inclusion in the Smashwords Premium Catalog. Once an eBook is accepted for inclusion in this catalog, which is distributed electronically to major eBooksellers as well as eReader and iReader bookstores worldwide, the author can choose to let Smashwords be the book publisher and obtain the ISBN at no cost, or to retain the title of publisher, and pay only $9.95 for the ISBN.

I noticed that most, if not all, online booksellers offer in their book search boxes the ISBN code as one of the suggested indentifiers to use in order to find quickly the exact book that a customer is looking for. Indeed, its use as the unique identifier of any book published worldwide would make it the searcher’s best bet.

Three caveats, though: (1) you cannot use the same ISBN for your eBook as you do for your print edition of the same title; (2) you cannot use the same ISBN for your Smashwoords edition of an eBook for any other version (e.g., Kindle or Nook editions) of the same eBook title; and (3) after Smashwords “ships” a specific ISBN eBook title to retailers, the ISBN for that book cannot be changed.


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