ISBNs and Other Things

While I was watching the Kindle Video Tutorial last night,  one of the things that I wondered about was the ISBN (International Standard Book Number). All books have them, but is it really necessary for my eBook? To find out the answer I went to, one of 60 agencies worldwide that provides ISBNs. They have a very comprehensive FAQ page, but it didn’t expressly address eBooks (or the cost to apply). To get this information I had to go to Here I found “Guidelines for the assignment of ISBNs to e-books“,a PDF that told me what I needed to know.

The short answer is that an ISBN is not necessary since a retailer like Amazon Kindle will sell your eBook only through the Amazon website, the eBook is formatted using proprietary software, and Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN. Note that, according to, the Apple iBookstore requires an ISBN and an EIN (Employer Identification Number) US tax ID from the IRS.

The ISBN is critical for traditional marketing, but it isn’t free. The cost can add up since each version, revision, binding, etc. requires an individual ISBN (check with for more details. Here’s how much an ISBN costs:

A single ISBN: $125.00
Ten ISBNs: $250.00 ($25 bucks each!)
100 ISBNs: $575.00 ($5.75 each!!)
1,000 ISBNs: $1,000.00 (A lousy buck each! What a deal!)

For traditional publishing, especially for prolific authors, there are lots of reasons to buy multiple ISBNs and the links provided will tell you why. The good news is that ISBNs aren’t like a license, they last forever.

Now that I’ve sort of gotten all that figured out, and I’ve finished mulling over all the Amazon legal stuff, I made the mistake of going into one of the Kindle community FAQs where I saw a reference to Smashwords,  it seems uses software that will convert my manuscript into multiple eBook formats for a variety of ereaders including iPhone, iPod Touch, Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and Barnes & Nobel Nook, and to other ereading devices, and will distribute eBooks to major retailers like Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store. At Smashwords you can earn up to 85% or more of the net proceeds and they provide the ISBNs for all the different files to be distributed. Now I have to read all the Smashwords legal stuff and try to finally decide what I’m going to do.

A wider market does sound like a better deal, but wait there’s more. The way I read it, since both Amazon and Smashwords have a nonexclusive relationship with you and me, I can have it all, I can distribute through both services. Yeah!

Have you had any experience with Kindle or Smashwords? I could really use some insider information. Leave a comment.


About Kevin_Fraleigh

I am a novelist, and much of my writing is predicated on the concept that within each of us is a hole. For some of us, the hole is a divot, shallow and insignificant. But for many of us the hole is a cavern, deep and expansive. We try to fill it with sex or drugs or religion, but the cavern has an insatiable appetite. This is where the dark things live―the things that fill our nightmares. The things that claw at our minds. The things that inspire the stories of horror, madness, and twisted realities. From the depths of that cavern come the seeds of my stories. Won’t you join me in the dark edges of reality? Learn more about me from my blog at You can find my novels at,, and most eBook retailers. You can also read some of my full length short stories at
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