The purpose of the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is to coordinate, standardize, and uniquely identify one publication (or edition) published by one specific publisher in one specific format. The original standard was introduced in 1970 and has been revised over time as book and book-like items appear in new forms of media. Today this system is recognized and used in over 160 countries.
The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are designed to provide you with some basic information about ISBNs, how they are assigned, and their usage requirements. For additional information, please visit the International ISBN Agency website where you can also access the ISBN Users' FAQ.
Why do I need to assign an ISBN to my book?
If you want to sell your book on sites other than the Lulu.com Marketplace, it must include an ISBN.
- The ISBN is a unique, internationally recognized identifier of your published work.
- ISBNs differentiate between product formats (hardcover, paperback, eBook) as well as various editions of a book ensuring customers receive the version they wish to purchase.
- Orders and distribution for published books are mainly executed by ISBN.
- ISBNs facilitate electronic point-of-sale systems through the use of barcodes scanned by electronic readers.
Can I get an ISBN for a print on demand publication?
Yes. Print on demand is just another method of printing books, but in very small batches. If you wish to sell your book on sites other than Lulu.com, your book must be assigned an ISBN.
Does a book I create for my own personal use or for a very limited audience such as my family and friends require an ISBN?
Publications available on a limited basis, such as customized, print on demand publications with content specifically tailored to a user’s request (such as a photo book or personal calendar) will not need to be assigned an ISBN. If a customized publication is being made available for wider sale, for example through a college book store, then an ISBN should be assigned.
I want to create and publish a monthly magazine. Do I need a new ISBN for each edition?
No. Publications that are intended by the publisher to be regularly updated or continued indefinitely (such as journals, magazines, newspapers, or websites) should not be assigned an ISBN.
What does the number mean?
Since 2007, national ISBN agencies provide ISBNs consisting of 13 digits, grouped to communicate the following information:
- Prefix Element (978 or 979 – new prefixes will be assigned as new numbers are required to meet demand)
- Registration Group Element (country, geographical region, or language area)
- Registrant Element (publisher or imprint)
- Publication Element (specific edition of the publication released by the publisher)
- Check Digit
What information about my book is associated with the ISBN?
Your book’s Format (hardcover, paperback, eBook, etc. including dimensions), Title, Author, Contributor(s), Edition, Language, Publisher or Imprint, Country of Publication, and Publication Date are associated with the assigned ISBN. If you use a free Lulu ISBN, Lulu will automatically register the above information as part of the Distribution process.
Important Note: A Lulu ISBN will not be registered if the book or eBook is not submitted for Distribution. For more information see What Distribution Services Does Lulu Offer?
Will Lulu provide me with an ISBN?
Lulu offers free ISBNs in the Lulu Publishing Wizard. If you would like to assign an ISBN to your print book project, choose Sell on Lulu, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more when starting your publishing project. For eBooks, choose Sell this book.
Important Note: Once an ISBN is assigned to a Lulu project it cannot be removed or changed. It is extremely important that you enter the correct information about your book when you create the project within the Lulu publication wizard.
I did not see the option to assign an ISBN when creating my project.
An ISBN is only needed for retail distribution to sites other than Lulu.com. Since some of our print book formats and sizes do not qualify for retail distribution, they are also ineligible to receive an ISBN. For a list of book formats that qualify for retail distribution and an ISBN, see What Products are Eligible for Retail Distribution.
Note: An ISBN is not required to sell your book in the Lulu.com Bookstore.
Can I purchase my own ISBN?
If you choose not to use a Free Lulu ISBN and you are a resident of the United States, Lulu can purchase an ISBN on your behalf using your publishing information.
If you would rather “do-it-yourself”, U.S. residents can purchase and register ISBNs from myidentifiers.com. Residents of other countries may also purchase directly from their respective ISBN agencies.
Note: Purchasing an ISBN makes you the Publisher of your book.
See Also: Bringing your own ISBN Agreement
I have my own ISBN. Can I use it when publishing a book on Lulu?
Yes, however you must register the title, author, and other metadata information with the agency from which you obtained the ISBN. For additional information, see Bringing Your Own ISBN Agreement.
Can I reuse an ISBN?
Once an ISBN has been associated with a publication, it can never be reused to identify a different publication, even if the original ISBN was assigned in error.
Can I use my purchased ISBNs and Publisher/Imprint name in multiple Lulu accounts?
ISBNs can only be assigned to a single project within a single account. They cannot be split, removed, or transferred between projects or accounts.
Likewise, the publisher and/or imprint name associated with your ISBN can only be used in a single Lulu account and cannot be used in, removed from, or transferred to other Lulu accounts.
For example, if you purchase a block of 10 ISBNs and register them to Remarkable Books Press, you cannot use five of these ISBNs in your Lulu account to publish your children's book series and give the remaining five ISBNs to your wife for use in publishing her series of Physics text books from a different Lulu account. The same applies if a single author maintains mutiple accounts used for the publication of different literary genres.
Is it possible to reassign ISBNs when the books to which they were allocated are out of print?
No, an ISBN identifies a book’s title, its edition, and format for all time. Even if out of print, your book may still exist in some shops, and will certainly continue to exist in libraries.
If I reissue a previously published work, without changing the text or binding, do I need a new ISBN?
No, the original ISBN must be retained, provided the title, format, and publisher remains the same.
Important Note: An ISBN can be associated with a single Lulu project. You can un-retire a project and retain the original ISBN. If you create a new project in order to reissue the previously published book, you will need a new ISBN.
Do I need a new ISBN if I reprint an existing book with a new title?
Yes, a new title requires a new ISBN.
If I edit a previously published book, do I need a new ISBN?
A new ISBN is required when:
- You make significant changes to any part or parts of a published work, such as adding, moving, or removing blocks of text and/or chapters.
- You change the title or subtitle of a previously published work.
- You substantially change the cover design (to the extent that customers would view your book as a new product).
- You create and publish your work in a new product format (hardcover, paperback, eBook, audio book, etc.).
- You create and publish your work in a new trim size (change the book’s dimensions).
- You create and publish an eBook in a different file format such as EPUB or MOBI.
- You publish with another publisher or under a new imprint.
- You issue a translated version of your published work.
You do NOT need a new ISBN when:
- You change the price.
- You make minor corrections (spelling, grammar, typos) to an existing edition.
- You make minor changes to the cover design of a newly published work or the change is intended to provide a marketing boost.
Where do I put the ISBN?
The ISBN must appear on the published work in the following locations:
- The copyright page.
- The lower section of the outside back cover.
- The foot of the back jacket or wrapper.
For eBooks, the ISBN must be displayed as part of the copyright information.
Do different eBook formats require different ISBNs?
Different formats of an electronic or digital publication are regarded as different editions and therefore require different ISBNs for each format made separately available for purchase.
I am publishing a Lulu book in a foreign language. Should I obtain an ISBN from the country in whose language the book is written?
No, it is the country in which the publisher lives or maintains residency that determines the group identifier – not the language of the text. Therefore, you may use a Free Lulu ISBN for works published in languages other than English.
Important Note: Lulu only offers retail distribution services for print books created in Latin character sets and eBooks written in English.
Does a price change require a new ISBN?
Does a change of format require a new ISBN?
Yes, different formats need different ISBNs so that a customer who wants to buy a book in hardback rather than paperback can be confident they will receive the correct format.
I am revising a book. Does it require a new ISBN?
A substantial change of text or cover design requires a new ISBN because these types of changes are considered a new revision of a previously published work. Additionally, if revisions have been made, the copyright page should state that the book is a revised edition, and the new ISBN should be printed there.
Important Note: An ISBN can be associated with a single Lulu project. If your intended changes result in the release of a new edition, you must create a new project so that a new ISBN can be assigned. Don’t forget to retire the previous version!
I would like to issue a new ISBN for marketing reasons. Is this permissible?
No, a new ISBN cannot be issued solely for marketing or promotional reasons. A new ISBN can only be issued where there are changes of text, format, cover design or binding.