Home » Self-publishing » CreateSpace & the ISBN conundrum

CreateSpace & the ISBN conundrum

This week, I thought I would shed some light on the role of the ISBN, when self-publishing with CreateSpace.

What is an ISBN? ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. You’ll find one on the back cover of a published book.  It is a product identification number that enables a publisher to distribute the book to outlets such as major bookselling chains, internet booksellers, and libraries. As a self-publisher, you may wish to take advantage of this method of distribution.

There is no legal requirement in the UK for an ISBN, but when self-publishing with the US-based platform, CreateSpace, you have to provide one. They offer a choice of either using a CreateSpace-assigned ISBN or providing your own UK ISBN (initially obtained from the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency).

Which ISBN should I choose? This largely depends on how you wish your book to be distributed. If you are happy to sell your book via the range of Amazon websites and US outlets, then it’s probably best to choose the CreateSpace-assigned ISBN. If you wish to take advantage of UK distribution as mentioned in the opening paragraph, then you need to provide a UK ISBN. To further explain the differences between the two, I have, hopefully, offered some insight below. (CreateSpace currently provide four ISBN options, but two of these are not available for non-US members.)

CreateSpace-assigned ISBN. This option is free, but designates CreateSpace as the publisher and distributor of your work. As publisher, they use the imprint ‘CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform’, and this will appear on any bibliographical references. Although you always retain the copyright to your work, with this option you have little control over publishing and distribution rights. Your book will be sold on Amazon.com, Amazon Europe and eStore channels, but distribution is only available to CreateSpace Direct, bookstores, other online retailers, libraries, and academic institutions within the US – worth bearing in mind if you specifically want to distribute your book to these places in the UK. A CreateSpace-assigned ISBN can only be used with the CreateSpace platform.

Provide your own UK ISBN. There is no charge by CreateSpace for this, but you will have to pay a fee to whoever provides the UK ISBN. This could be direct to the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency, or to whoever self-publishes your book. (I currently charge £14.40 when using my own publishing imprint, Shadenet Publishing.) If you buy your UK ISBN direct, you choose your own publishing name. This makes it more personal, but more importantly, you hold all the publishing and distribution rights, and your imprint will appear on any bibliographical references. You can also choose your own distributor. Your book will still be available via all the Amazon outlets, but will not be eligible for distribution to libraries and academic institutions in the US. It will still be available to US bookstores and other online retailers, but your book’s ISBN must not have been submitted for distribution through another service, and you must use an industry-standard trim size for your book (5″ x 8″, 5.25″ x 8″, 5.5″ x 8.5″, or 6″ x 9″).

Any self-publisher can purchase an ISBN. Until recently, they were only available in blocks of 10, but the Nielsen UK ISBN Agency have realized that many self-publishers only want to publish one book, so they have started offering one ISBN, currently for £75. (Bear in mind, 10 can be bought for £149.00).

E-books do not necessarily require an ISBN number, but if you want to distribute e-books through channels other than Amazon, in the UK, then you will need to assign a different ISBN number.

I hope this goes some way to making the ISBN choice easier for UK self-publishers. I’d quite like to hear from anyone about their experiences of using a UK ISBN with CreateSpace, especially with regards to distribution.

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