08 Jun Game Design Lesson #14: What Is An ISBN And Do You Need One?

If you’ve finished your book, you’ll want to get it out into the hands of your customers as soon as possible. So what’s to stop you just putting up a PDF online and selling it? Well…nothing really, but if you want your PDF to turn into a physical book, if you want that book to be in actual bookstores, and if you want your e-book to be anywhere other than your own website, you’re going to need an ISBN.

So what is it, and how do you get it?

An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number. This is the number which is used throughout the world to catalogue and uniquely identify each book – so that they can be told apart from each other. There are a lot of books with similar names, and even identical names. Some authors have similar names. Some books have multiple editions. How the heck do you tell them all apart? With unique numbers. Thus: the ISBN.

Note that a PDF (or e-book), paperback and hardcover book all have different ISBNs. Translated editions would have different ISBNs.

To further confuse matters, there are two different types of ISBNs – 10-digit ISBNs, and 13-digit ISBNs. However, any book published after 2007 uses the 13-digit ISBN, so that makes it simple.

How Do You Get An ISBN?

Actually it’s fairly simple. This Wikipedia page actually tells you all about it. It varies from country to country.

If you’re in Australia, you can purchase ISBNs through Thorpe-Bowker. I would recommend buying the 10-ISBNs and 1-Barcode deal. It costs $133.00 AUD + $55.00 for registration as a first-time user (ouch). But you’re going to need that barcode if you are making a printed book… so I’d just go ahead and get it.

Americans, Canadians, UK, Europe – many are listed in that Wikipedia page I linked to above. Check it out, and they’ll show you where to go, from there you just follow your nose.

Related:  Game Design Lesson #13: Store Credit?

However, make sure that once you buy your Identifiers, that you then upload the info on the book. On Thorpe-Bowker, you can do that directly. You can put in the title, the sub-title, detail on what the book’s about, the cover picture, and even upload its full contents so it can be searched for keywords. All worthwhile doing.

Make sure you also put the ISBN on one of first pages of your book – probably the copyright page. That’s rather important.

And that’s about it. Just make sure you get your ISBN and put it in your book before you get it printed and distributed.

Now go forth and publish!

~Oliver

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Related articles:

Game Design Lessons #12: Refunds

Game Design Lessons #11: What My Cat Taught Me About Game Design

Game Design Lessons #10: Make A Killer Product

Maps In RPGs – A Guest Blog Post By Christian Mintert

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