Thursday, June 7, 2018

For self-published author like me who is not interested in earning royalty nor in promotion of book for large sales, is it worth the bother to get ISBN for POD book versions?

I am still awaiting a response from RRNA ( for my ISBN number application made to them on 31st May 2018 for Print-On-Demand (POD) copy of my iami1 blogbook with (to be) printed title 'Who am I? I am I - Ultimate Existential Reality Answer; Vedanta; God and Science conversation' (see and for details).

When I checked earlier today (6th June), the status of my application shows 'Submitted', indicating that the application has not crossed the first stage of review.

Meanwhile I have been doing some reading up on ISBN for my particular context and my particular needs. The key factor in my case is that I am NOT interested in earning royalty nor in promotion of book for large sales. I simply want to make my book(s) available in printed form (using Print-On-Demand) for interested persons, quite irrespective of the number of interested persons (zero or in tens/hundreds or more). [The ebook versions are available for free download and that's a straight forward affair not needing any self-publishing support company to support me for printing, sales and shipping. So my current thinking is that I don't need to think about ISBN for ebook versions.]

Some self-publishing companies assign an ISBN to book self-published through them. But according to : "Since is not a publisher, it does not assign an ISBN to any book." So if I want an ISBN for my POD book self-published through (in a non-exclusive manner), I need to apply for and get the ISBN directly from RRNA (

Another important point with respect to is that if one puts a book without ISBN into their "Extended Online Distribution" service/system where they sell the book through big Indian booksellers like and flipkart, then one cannot add the ISBN for the same book later on (see the answer for question, 'Is ISBN required for the book to go into distribution?' in

But can one do that for a later edition of the same book? If so, I have the option of not having ISBN for first edition of the book and choosing (after paying the one-time charges of Rs. 1500 with yearly charges being waived currently, for Extended Online Distribution service) to have the book sold through and flipkart, but later on if I find that ISBN is needed, apply for, get and use the ISBN(s) for future editions of the book.

Here is some info. relevant for my case gleaned from :

1) ISBN is used by libraries and booksellers to identify a book including its edition and format. The identification information includes the book title, the author, the publisher, the edition and the format (ebook OR paperback/softcover or hardcover). Note that separate ISBN has to be applied for, for ebook version, paperback/softcover version and hardcover version of the book with the same title, author, publisher and edition.

2) ISBN is not legally required to self-publish (or publish) a book.

3) Major booksellers seem to prefer selling books with ISBN. Perhaps libraries too may have some preference for books with ISBN.

4) Title Verso page seems to be the first (or among the initial) inner contents page(s) and its reverse side. It has the title of the book, name of the author, Copyright notice, Copyright holder name, Publisher's name and address, and Printer's name and address.

5) The Cover page should display the title of the book and the name of the author.

Some more info. gleaned from

6) Section 2.16 Publisher states that the publisher is "The individual or corporation responsible for all stages in the creation, production, dissemination and marketing of digital or printed publications." It further clarifies that "The publisher is normally responsible for the content and for any financial risk involved in the process." and that "Authors may be their own publishers, taking on the above functions themselves; this is known as self-publishing". [I fall in the category of author being his own publisher and am responsible for content and for any financial risk involved. As I use Print-On-Demand the financial risk for printing is negligible, if any.]

7) Section 2.17 Registrant says that a registrant is a "Person or organization that has requested and received a valid and genuine ISBN allocated under the aegis of, and according to the rules specified by, the International ISBN Agency to identify a monographic publication." Note that in this context, monograph seems to have a broader meaning of a non-serialized book.

[So if I receive an ISBN number from RRNA then I will become a registrant.]

8) Separate ISBN has to be applied for if there is a change in title/sub-title, language, publisher name or imprint, author name, textual content other than minor corrections, product form (e.g. softcover to ebook/hardcover), product form detail (change in dimension of book; from pdf to epub). [Ravi: Essentially, for any changes made to book, but for the exception of minor corrections, one needs to apply for a new ISBN.]

9) Section 7.8 ISBNs can never be reused, says that an ISBN assigned to one publication (title, author, publisher, edition, format etc.) should never be reused for another publication. In case an ISBN number is in error, the registant must delete that number from usable ISBNs and report the matter to concerned ISBN agency (RRNA).

10) Section 12. Small and Self-Publishers, has some info about self-publishers. As I have already captured the vital part related to self-publishers that applies to my case, from earlier sections, I am not covering details of this section 12 here.

11) Section 13. Location and Display of the ISBN on Publications, is necessary reading once one gets an ISBN and has to include it in the book.

12) Section 13.2 ISBN in bar coded form, is useful reading once an ISBN has been obtained to be used in a particular book.

13) The document has a FAQ section titled, "Frequently Asked Questions about ISBN :" Some points from it relevant to my particular case, are given below as sub-points

13a) "Why should I use an ISBN? If you are a publisher or bookseller it may be in your own interest as you want to sell books. If your books cannot be ordered and distributed by ISBN and if they are not listed in Books in Print-type listings you may find that your books do not sell. People will assume your books do not exist, and even if they do know they exist they may consider it too much of a bother to handle them since they will need to do so using full title and manual ordering."

13b) "Do books need an ISBN if they are not going to be sold? It is desirable that all books made publicly available, whether they are available for sale or on a gratis basis, are identified by ISBNs."

13c) "I am an author/self-publisher and want to publish my (e-)book by means of a selfpublishing platform. The platform has given the book an ISBN from its own ISBN registrant element. Is that OK? In that case the platform will be considered the publisher. This is not recommended practice. If you later break the relationship with the platform and decide to distribute your book elsewhere, you will need a new ISBN of your own. It is therefore better to obtain an ISBN of your own from the start. RRRNA can assign ISBNs from ranges reserved for small publishers or even assign single ISBNs."

13d) "Fees/costs for obtaining an ISBN from RRRNA" - "Currently it is free."

13e) "Does a price change require a new ISBN? No."

13f) "Does a reprint without change of text or binding require a new ISBN? No, the original number must be retained, provided the publisher remains the same."

13g) "Do I need a new ISBN when I am reprinting a book with a new title? Yes, a new title requires a new ISBN."

Ravi: I guess it is worth some bother to get a proper ISBN for my Print-On-Demand book from RRNA if they are able to fix the issue of long title and special character(s) like ? (and ;) in it. If RRNA forces me to use a 50 character title and remove special character(s) like ? (and ;) from my long title (and sub-title), I think I should not change my title to suit RRNA's limitations and so I should not use ISBN for my POD book.

[I thank and have presumed that they will not have any objections to me sharing the above extracts from their website on this post which is freely viewable by all, and does not have any financial profit motive whatsoever.]

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