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  • Writer's pictureTullipStudio Team


An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique identifier for children's books, serving as a critical tool in the publishing and library industries. It comprises 10 or 13 digits and is used to distinguish one book from another, making it easier to manage, distribute, and sell books worldwide.

The concept of ISBNs was introduced in the late 1960s to address the growing need for a standardized identification system for books. Before ISBNs, book identification was a complex and error-prone process, especially for books with similar titles or by different publishers. The ISBN system was developed to ease these issues and streamline the book supply chain.

The ISBN comprises specific components that convey valuable information about the book, its publisher, and its edition. While a thousand words may not be necessary to explain ISBNs, breaking down the essential elements will provide a comprehensive understanding:

  1. Prefix: The ISBN begins with a country or language identifier. This prefix helps identify the location or language in which the book is published. Different countries and language groups have their prefixes, ensuring that each ISBN is unique worldwide.

  2. Registrant Element: Following the prefix is the registrant element, which designates the particular publisher or entity responsible for publishing the book. This part is assigned by an ISBN agency or organization in each country. It ensures that each publisher can have a unique identifier for their books.

  3. Publication Element: The publication element is a unique code assigned to each proper book within a publisher's catalog. It distinguishes different editions, formats, or versions of the same title. For example, a hardcover edition may have a unique publication element than the paperback version of the same book.

  4. Check Digit: The last digit of an ISBN is a check digit, calculated based on the preceding digits. It is used to detect errors in the ISBN and ensure its accuracy when scanning or entering the number manually.

The transition from the original 10-digit ISBN to the 13-digit ISBN occurred in the early 2000s to accommodate the increasing complexity of the publishing industry. The 13-digit ISBN includes all the essential information found in the 10-digit version but offers an expanded capacity to handle the growing number of books and digital publications. It also aligns with the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN) standard, allowing ISBNs to be used for other products like e-books.

ISBNs are crucial for a variety of reasons:

  1. Identification: They provide a clear and unique identifier for each book, preventing confusion between different editions or publications.

  2. Inventory Management: ISBNs facilitate the tracking and management of books in libraries and bookstores, making it easier to organize and locate specific titles.

  3. Marketing and Sales: ISBNs are used in marketing and sales processes, allowing booksellers and distributors to accurately order and sell books.

  4. Global Distribution: ISBNs enable books to be easily distributed internationally, as they are recognized and standardized worldwide.

  5. Cataloging and Bibliographic Control: Libraries and bibliographic databases use ISBNs to catalog books, creating a standardized system for finding and accessing information.

  6. Digital Publications: ISBNs are also used for e-books and digital publications, helping to distinguish them from their print counterparts.

  7. Intellectual Property Rights: ISBNs play a role in copyright protection and licensing agreements, helping to establish ownership and usage rights.

  8. Accessibility and Discovery: They aid readers in discovering and obtaining specific books, whether through online retailers, libraries, or other sources.

In summary, ISBNs are a vital component of the modern book industry, ensuring that books are easily identified, distributed, and made accessible to readers worldwide. They simplify the process of cataloging, selling, and locating books, contributing to the seamless functioning of the global publishing ecosystem.

To get an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) for a children's book or publication, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Determine if You Need an ISBN: SBNs are mainly used to identify books and they are not required for all types of publications. In many countries, ISBNs are used for books, e-books, and children’s book. If you are publishing other types of materials like brochures, pamphlets, children’s book or magazines, you may not need an ISBN. Check the guidelines in your country to see if your publication requires an ISBN.

  2. Identify the Publisher or Publisher Identifier: ISBNs are typically assigned to publishers, not individual authors or self-publishers. If you are a self-publisher or an author seeking an ISBN, you can still obtain one. However, you may need to identify yourself as the publisher. In some cases, self-publishing platforms may offer ISBNs as part of their services.

  3. Locate Your National ISBN Agency: Each country has a National ISBN Agency responsible for assigning ISBNs. You can find the ISBN agency for your country by searching online or visiting the International ISBN Agency's website.

  4. Contact the ISBN Agency: Reach out to your country's ISBN agency to apply for an ISBN. They will guide you through the process and provide you with the necessary forms and instructions. In some countries, you may be able to apply online.

  5. Provide Required Information: You will need to provide information about your publication when applying for an ISBN. This information may include: Title of the book or publication

    1. Author(s) or editor(s)

    2. Publisher's name and address (or your information if you are the publisher)

    3. Edition, if applicable

    4. Format (hardcover, paperback, e-book, etc.)

    5. Language

    6. Publication date

    7. Estimated price

  1. Pay Any Associated Fees: Some ISBN agencies charge a fee for assigning ISBNs, while others provide them for free. Be prepared to pay any applicable fees.

  2. Receive Your ISBN: Once your application is processed and approved, you will receive your ISBN. Each ISBN is unique and identifies your publication worldwide.

  3. Include the ISBN on Your Publication: You must include the ISBN on the copyright page of your book or publication. This ensures that it is easily discoverable by booksellers, libraries, and other interested parties.

Remember that ISBNs are typically associated with a specific edition of a publication. If you make significant changes to your children’s book or release a new edition, you may need a new ISBN.

It's essential to follow the specific guidelines and procedures outlined by your country's ISBN agency, as the process may vary from one country to another. If you plan to distribute your children’s book internationally, it's a good idea to get an ISBN for each edition in different countries where you intend to sell your publication.

The most important identifier your book can have the ISBN. As the U.S. ISBN Agency, Bowker is the ONLY official source of ISBNs in the United States. ISBNs provide unique identification for books and simplify the distribution of your books throughout the global supply chain. Without an ISBN, your book will not be found in most bookstores, either online or down the street from your house.

Bowker provides services for many business types, from chain, independent, and college retail bookstores to online retailers, distributors, and consultants for other businesses. Overall, Bowker offers a wide range of solutions to assist the publishing community in transacting and being informed on the flow of digital and print books throughout the publishing ecosystem, including unique identifiers like ISBNs, barcodes, and SANs. is also available for the Australasian market.

Obtaining an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for book publications in the United States can be done through the official Bowker website, which is the agency responsible for ISBN registration in the US. Here are the steps:

  1. Access Bowker Site: Visit the Bowker website at [] (

  2. Create an Account: If you don't have an account yet, you will need to create one. Click the "Sign Up" or "Create an Account" button and follow the registration process.

  3. Login to Account: Once you have a Bowker account, log into your account using the credentials you registered.

  4. Select ISBN Type: In your account dashboard, you will have the option to select the ISBN type that suits your needs. Some common choices include ISBNs for print books, e-books, etc.

  5. Fill in Publishing Information: You will be asked to fill in information about your book, such as title, author, publication date, short description, and so on. Be sure to provide accurate and complete information.

  6. Select Number of ISBNs: You will be given the option to purchase one ISBN or a larger quantity. Prices are usually cheaper if you buy more than one ISBN at a time.

  7. Payment: After filling in all the required information, you will be directed to make payment. Be sure to check current prices, as fees for ISBNs may change over time.

  8. Purchase Confirmation: Once payment is complete, you will receive a purchase confirmation and your ISBN will be sent via email. You can also view your ISBN in your Bowker account dashboard.

  9. Use an ISBN: Now that you have an ISBN, you can use the number to print on your book, create an ISBN barcode, and register your book in libraries, bookstores, and publishing databases.

It is important to remember that having an ISBN is the responsibility of the publisher or author. Be sure to care for them and use them properly in all your book publishing. Additionally, here are some things to keep in mind:

  1. The ISBN is unique for each children's book, so you will need different ISBNs for different print editions and e-books.

  2. The ISBN purchase process through Bowker is legal and official in the US.

  3. ISBN is an important element in book sales and worldwide distribution, so make sure you take care of it before publishing your book.

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