At Bowker, we sell ISBNs. So we get a lot of questions about them. We've collected the ones that seem to be most useful to folks calling or emailing us.
Is Bowker the only place I can get an ISBN?
Bowker is the US ISBN Registration Agency. Each country has its own ISBN Registration Agency, as part of the ISBN standard ratified by ISO. If you are in the US, your ISBNs come from Bowker.
I just got my ISBN. Now what do I do?
Enter your metadata! Metadata is the information about your book - title, author, price, subject category, description, etc. My Identifiers allows you to enter all the relevant metadata about your book, and update/correct it as needed. The metadata then gets sent out in a data feed to all the major search engines and most bookstores (online and brick-and-mortar), as well as to thousands of libraries. Keeping your metadata accurate and current is probably the best thing you can do to market your book.
It says on My Identifiers that I have to be a publisher to buy ISBNs. I am a self-published author and don’t have a company name. Does that mean I can’t buy?
If you are publishing a book, you are a publisher. You don't need a corporate entity to purchase ISBNs. You can purchase them under your own name, or create a name for yourself as a publisher - e.g. "Laura Dawson Publishing". This name does not need to be registered in any way.
Do I purchase my ISBN before or after I get my copyright?
Your book is protected under copyright as soon as it is written. ISBNs can be bought at nearly any stage of the book publishing process. These are two different systems.
Can I get my ISBN from Canada instead of the US?
If your publishing company has a primary billing address that is Canadian, yes - in fact, you should. If your publishing company is located in the US, you must purchase your ISBNs from Bowker. The ISBN standard specifies that the publisher must obtain ISBNs from the Registration Agency in the publisher's own country.
How do I get an e-ISBN?
There is no such thing as an e-ISBN. ISBNs are ISBNs - some identify physical products in the book supply chain, others identify digital products in the book supply chain. Vendors who ask for information about your e-ISBNs are using incorrect terminology - they simply want the ISBNs of your digital products.
I am changing the price and/or cover of my book. Do I need a new ISBN?
Not necessarily. A new ISBN is warranted only when the changes mean that the changed product is distinctly different from the previous version and customers would be confused.