Understanding the ISBN and its Importance

ISBN India

ISBN has never been an issue for authors who decided to get published through Traditional Publishing or Vanity Publishing but has always been troublesome for the self-published authors. I self-published my book on my own and had a tough time acquiring an ISBN number for my pocketbook. I had to put in a lot of research, request a lot of publisher friends to get one ISBN. The Internet is littered with self-publishing deals and ads but there’s hardly an article that educates an author about the ISBN and its importance.

ISBN: International Standard Book Number

ISBN in India is issued by an agency named Raja Rammohun Roy National Agency for ISBN, which works under the aegis of Human Resource & Development Ministry. The said ministry looks around the syllabus, publication and educational paradigms in the country. Earlier requesting and receiving an ISBN number was a huge pain but in recent past things have changed for the better. The online portal for requesting ISBN is quite user-friendly and provides a subtle experience.

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Understanding the ISBN Format

ISBN is a 13 digit code, before May 2007 it was  10 digit, maybe then they ran out of ten-digit ISBN codes 😉 13 digit ISBN code is universal and can be used in any country on this planet. One can use this 13 digit code for locking in the sales figure of a book no matter whether it is sold in Pakistan or North Korea because that’s where we need to sell a lot more books.

There are online tools where one can easily convert his or her 13 digit ISBN code in a QR code or a barcode and print it on the back of their books. It is said that an author needs a different and unique ISBN for the paperback and the hardcover version.

Quick Fact: It is not important to have ISBN for Ebooks. 

ISBN India

Most Frequently Asked Questions related to ISBN India:

  1. What are the charges one needs to pay for ISBN in India?

Answer: ISBN is totally free and generally allocated to Publishers by HRD ministry and then to books by Publishers. Self-published authors can apply for individual ISBN.

2. Where to apply for ISBN India? Is there an online platform?

Answer: Yes! You can apply for ISBN online and receive the ISBN in your mail. 

3. How many days does it take for the Raja Ramnohun Roy National Agency for ISBN to allocate one?

Answer: Well, the set deadline is for one week but it takes somewhere between 20 to 50 days for the Raja Rammohun National Agency for ISBN to allocate one. 

4. Do the agency also provides with a ready to print barcode/QR code?

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Answer: No, the agency does not provide the authors with a ready to print barcode or QR code. The author/publisher needs to prepare their barcode on their own. It is important to publish the MRP of the book along with the barcode, it is just a general practice for the convenience of readers and not compulsory. 

P.S: Authors and Publishers can use this free site for converting their ISBN into Barcode.

5. Pre-requirements for applying ISBN in India?

Answer: Yes, there are few things an author needs to submit while requesting an ISBN and this is only to prevent the abuse of the service. If these little details are not requested then the free service can be exploited by the vanity publisher and other literary agents.

Pre-requisites for requesting an ISBN:

  1. Book Cover
  2. The author must mention it clear whether it is a paperback or a hardback
  3. Number of pages must be furnished
  4. Retail price

6. Can I also opt for requesting ISBN manually/offline?

Answer: yes, you will have to prepare a full-fledged application include id card like PANCARD and post it to the suitable agency. 

7. Who can all apply for ISBN in India?

Answer: Authors, Publishers, Colleges and Government Department.

8. Do we need a new ISBN when we change the price of the book?

Answer: No new ISBN is required for price updates and newer versions but one needs a new ISBN when the book is translated to some other language than the one it was originally published in. 

9. What happens when I change the publisher of my book?

Answer: You will have to request a new ISBN when you change the publisher. It is actually Publisher’s job to provide your book with a new ISBN.

10. Can I publish the sequel of the book under the same ISBN?

Answer: No, you need a new ISBN for every book no matter whether it is a trilogy or a series. 

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Things you cannot do with an ISBN

A lot of self-published authors are in double mind with the use of ISBN in India. A lot of them do not have any idea about it works and ends up using the ISBN wrongly. Here are few things a self-published or even a traditionally published author cannot do with his or her book:

  • Use one ISBN for more than one book
  • Sell books in retail without putting the barcode on the back
  • Publish both paperback and hardcover copies with the same ISBN
  • Move to another publisher without changing the ISBN
  • Sell ISBN to other authors. Well the Government prohibits this but sell of ISBN is a common practice.
  • An author cannot reuse his or her ISBN. One ISBN = One Book
  • You need to change the ISBN when you get a new cover, which is done by a new graphic designer. If the designer of the first cover designs the second then no need to get a new ISBN.
  • A separate ISBN for ebook, audiobook, paperback and hardback is compulsory and not optional.
  • You cannot receive an ISBN without submitting the Cover of your book along with the title of the book.
  • You can use the same ISBN for selling books in different countries like India, Pakistan, China and United States. ISBN is an International number and is universally valid.
  • You must change the ISBN when you change the publisher or in case the publisher goes out of business.
  • There’s no specific rule related to the location of ISBN barcode. An author can get it published it anywhere he or she wants it on the back or inside the book.

ISBN India

Five Things to do before Applying for an ISBN

  • Finalize a publisher
  • Finalize the number of pages
  • Get a cover for your book designed
  • Select a publishing format and reach a consensus on the price
  • Prepare a Title-Verso file

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Physical address for sending ISBN application form in India

Raja Rammohun Roy National Agency for ISBN,
Department of Higher Education,
Ministry of Human Resource Development,
Room No. 13, Jeevan Deep Building,
4th Floor, Parliament Street,
New Delhi – 110001
Phone: +91-11-26172903/26172916

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In what cases the author needs a new ISBN code for the same book
  • In case the author decides to change the Publisher
  • In case there are more than one versions of book with changes in content
  • In case there are more than one format of the book
  • In case the publisher goes out of business but the book is still selling
  • When more than one book is published in the series

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Pranav Shree Self-Published his pocketbook in 2017. Pranav decided to self-publish his book and learn the nuances of self-publishing to help newbies and aspiring authors. The Publishing Industry is littered with scams and cheap earning gimmicks. With Blogs and eBooks, Pranav aims to help authors and aspiring writers understand the Self-Publishing intricately.

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