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ISBN header Falling Book

ISBNs and Barcodes

Part of publishing a professional-quality book is securing an ISBN for every format of your book. Bookstores and distributors use ISBNs when ordering titles, so if you want them to carry your book, you’ll need an ISBN.

At 48 Hour Books, we sell ISBNs and barcodes so you can sell your self-published book in stores.

Get Started
barcodes on stack of books

What is an ISBN?

An International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, is a unique, 13-digit number that identifies a book. It works almost like a serial number: it establishes the publisher, author, title, and format of the book.

Each format of a book requires its own ISBN:
  • Paperback
  • Hard cover
  • ePub
  • MOBI
  • PDF
  • Audiobook

So, if you have written a hardcover book, that makes one ISBN. Convert your book to an eBook, and you will need another ISBN. Record an audiobook version, and you will need yet another, and so on.

That is why ISBNs are often sold in blocks of 10, 100, or even 1,000. Once an ISBN has been assigned, it cannot be re-used. You can print as many copies of your book using the same ISBN as you'd like – as long as they are all the same version and format.

ISBN Stack of books

Why use an ISBN?

Using ISBNs allows your book to be easily found and identified by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers, and distributors. Many books have the same or similar titles, so bookstores and book distributors use an ISBN to be sure they are ordering the correct book. If your book does not have an ISBN, bookstores (including online bookstores) will not carry it. When you have an ISBN for your book, you can register it at BooksInPrint.com, where all bookstores and book distributors go to find your book.

What is a barcode?

An ISBN is not the same as a barcode. The ISBN is the number itself, and the barcode is created from the ISBN. You buy an ISBN first, and then generate a barcode from that ISBN.

When ordering books, triple-check your book cover to be sure your ISBN & barcode have been included. If you approve a book cover without your barcode on it, your final printed book will be missing the barcode, too.

barcode on laptop
ISBN laptop

Buy ISBNs and barcodes at 48 Hour Books

You can buy ISBNs and barcodes at 48 Hour Books, both individually and in packages. We are authorized channel partners with ISBN.org, so we can help you streamline the process and save a little money, too.

Trust your ISBN seller

When you buy your ISBN from 48 Hour Books, you are the official holder of the ISBN. That allows you to register data to your title in your name. Other, less scrupulous book printers may sell you ISBNs purchased in their name, not yours, and might not register your ISBNs with the title and other metadata. In that situation you may end up with a book that will never be found, and no rights as a publisher to remedy the situation.

Buy from us and be sure you have complete control over all of the data associated with every book title you create.

ISBN and Barcode
Package Options

When you’re ready, choose from a single ISBN and barcode, perfect for just one title, or pick up a multi-unit pack and ensure all formats of your book title are covered.

ISBN Package Pricing

Buy in bulk and save.

Single ISBN & Barcode $125 $125
10-pack of ISBNs & Barcodes $45 $450
100-pack of ISBNs & Barcodes $20 $2,000
1,000-pack of ISBNs & Barcodes $4 $4,000

How to buy your ISBN and barcode

To purchase ISBNs and barcodes with your book order, download the ISBN Application Form (USA).

  1. Fill out the application form and email it back to us.
  2. Select the number of ISBNs you want to purchase in the ISBN + Barcode section of the order process.
  3. When you receive your proof, triple-check your book cover to be sure your barcode has been included.

Note: Canadian customers should buy their ISBN through CollectionsCanada.

Need Support?

Contact us — we are happy to help.