Before we begin, let’s have a look at what an ISBN is and where they originated. Basically an ISBN is a 13-digit number which acts as a unique identifier for a publication, and are used in about 150 countries worldwide. They originate from 1965, when W.H. Smith – Britain’s largest book retailer – made plans to computerise their warehouse. The British Publisher’s Association and other experts got together and created the SBN (Standard Book Numbering) system which was implemented in 1967. This attracted the attention of the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) who investigated the possibility of implementing the system globally. After meetings in London in 1968 and Stockholm in 1969, with representatives from across Europe and the United States in attendance as well as written comments from many other countries, the ISBN was approved as standard in 1970.Originally ISBN’s were 10 digits long, revised to 13 digits in 2007. They contain five groups of digits which provide information identifying the date, region, publisher, title and edition, and finally a check-digit which validates the ISBN. This is why they contain dashes.
- Step One – Do I really need an ISBN?
Unless you are printing less than 50 copies of your book for loved ones, then yes. Book dealers will generally not stock titles without an ISBN barcode. Keep in mind that if you are also intending to publish your work as an e-book, or in both hard- and soft-cover, that you will need a unique ISBN for each different version.
- Step Two – Request your ISBN Number (or your country’s equivalent)
Contact the National Library of South Africa for an ISBN number.
- Step Three – Time to design your ISBN barcode
If you already have an ISBN number, we can do the design of the barcode image for you for only R120.00. Contact us for more info.
- Step Four – Provide your publisher or printers with your ISBN barcode
If you are self-publishing your book then you will need to send the ISBN to your printers who will add it to your publication.
- Step Five – Post-publishing
This unfortunately is the inevitable admin bit. Under the Legal Deposit Act of 1997 you will be required to provide one free copy of your book along with an information sheet to the six areas of legal deposit, but the ISN will provide you with full details with your ISBN code. You need to do this within 14 days of publication.
And that’s it! If you have self-published a book or have any questions at all feel free to let us know in the comments.