Do I need a new ISBN for every version of my e-book?

No. E-books don’t need ISBN’s at all. Remember that ISBN’s are essentially universal (at least in the bookseller world) stock numbers. E-books won’t ever be inventoried or accounted by the copy, so no ISBN number is needed. Whoever you publish with, such as Kindle, will have their own internal project numbering system or other method of controlling their internal database. Your book will get assigned some sort of tracking number. But an ISBN? No.

When do I need to get an ISBN? How do I get one?

R.R. Bowker Company was named exclusive provider of International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs) in the United States in 1968 (an awful year, otherwise). Today, the company (now just plain Bowker) is part of ProQuest and still pumping out ISBNs as well as standard bar codes for publisher/bookseller inventory management. And, it offers a range of other publishing services and more. A good company. Bowker does license others to help sell ISBNs, such as Publisher Services. But watch out for nefarious ISBN distributor wannabes.

Your books need ISBNs. Every version, edition, and format needs its own ISBN, which can be purchased one-at-a-time (very expensive) or in lots on a steep discount curve. E-Books don’t require ISBNs. If you are publishing using Amazon CreateSpace, you can get your one-off ISBN from them at no cost at all. Sweet deal.

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