While over 90% of book sales move through Amazon book sales, there’s a hitch that many first-time authors and newbie writers are unaware of - the limitations of using an Amazon ISBN number for your self-published book.
Because a “free” ISBN can be a significant incentive for using an Amazon ISBN, you should know that you’re severely limiting yourself on how and where you can sell your book when you use an Amazon ISBN.
What is an ISBN Number?
An ISBN is a unique 13-digit number that most published books have assigned to them. Usually, an ISBN number in the United States typically starts with 978 or 979. Your ISBN number for your book identifies various attributes about a book, such as a book edition, publisher name, page count, and other elements of a published book.
ISBN numbers are used by booksellers, libraries, publishers, and retailers such as Amazon to identify your book, manage inventory, and sell your book on their platform or in their book store. Amazon can assign their own ISBN number, known as an ASIN, Amazon Standard Identification Number, to your book if you choose their “free” ISBN book number. However, suppose you don’t choose an ISBN number and publish primarily through Amazon. In that case, you will have an ASIN number automatically assigned to your book. And while the Amazon ASIN number is similar to an ISBN, there are many restrictions with an ASIN number from Amazon publishing.
You Can Only Sell on Amazon with an Amazon ISBN Number
When you think of writing your book, you may think about seeing your book in your local book stores and posting a selfie of you and your new book to share on social media. However, if you’re using an Amazon ISBN, this simply won’t happen.
Why? Because when you use one of Amazon’s “free” ISBN numbers, they own where you can sell your book. Basically, you can only sell your book on their platform. No bookstores, airports, or any other venue. You can’t even sell your book at a local market because using the Amazon ISBN limits you to selling only on platforms that profit Amazon.
And while there are people who break this rule and sell their Amazon ISBN books outside of their platform, I would not take that risk with my book. After spending all the time and money to publish my book, I wouldn’t want to have it taken down and be unable to sell it anywhere. In addition, you set yourself up for a lawsuit from Amazon, a position that no one wants to see themselves in when they are a new author.
If you’re looking for guidance on the steps of book publishing and you want to read more, I would highly recommend checking out the self-publishing platform Lulu and their list of resources for self-publishers. While you can purchase your own ISBN and publish through Lulu, you can also publish to Amazon through Lulu, so you have the right to sell your book in book stores and other book outlets.
How to Purchase Your Own ISBN Number for Your Self-Published Book
In the meantime, check out My Identifiers to purchase a set of ten ISBN numbers, as each format of your book (print, ebook, audiobook) will need its own ISBN number.
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