How to Choose 1 of 4 ISBN Options When Using CreateSpace as Your Print-on-Demand Printer
How to Choose 1 of 4 ISBN Options When Using CreateSpace as Your Print-on-Demand Printer

How to Choose 1 of 4 ISBN Options When Using CreateSpace as Your Print-on-Demand Printer

How to Choose 1 of 4 ISBN Options When Using CreateSpace as Your Print-on-Demand PrinterUPDATE, JULY 2016: Amazon's CreateSpace has discontinued their Custom ISBN option, #2 below.

An International Standard Book Number or ISBN is necessary when you publish a print book and most printers give you two options: use your own ISBN or they will assign a number from their ISBN series. But the choices multiply to four when you use Amazon's CreateSpace as your print-on-demand, or POD, printer. (Click here for ISBN information for eBooks).

Which one you choose depends on your goals, circumstances and budget, so it pays to understand the options before you proceed because you can't change your mind later. The 4 options range from free to using an ISBN you own, or buy, from

1. CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN; cost: FREE

Besides the cost, the big advantage of this option is that your book is eligible for Expanded Distribution which costs $25. For this $25 (update: this is now free). Amazon adds your book into a database from which a library, school, bookstore or other online retailer can order it. Again, your book is on a list, not in a store. If someone hears about your book they can order it from one of these retailers. Otherwise the only place they can buy it is from Amazon, or you.

CreateSpace is listed as the publisher when you select the FREE option:

This is what the publisher name looks like when you select the free CreateSpace ISBN


  • Free
  • This is the only way you can make your book available for purchase by libraries and academic institutions.


  • It will cost $25 to get into the Expanded Distribution catalog.  (Expanded Distribution is now free.)
  • The name of your publishing company will not be listed.
  • You cannot use this ISBN to print at another printer. For example, you can't close your CreateSpace account and print at IngramSpark.

Comments: the reason to choose this is if you are on a budget and you plan to market your book to libraries and schools. The operative word is market.

NOTE: This option of making your book available for ordering by libraries and schools is the key consideration for the other three options. Use this option if that's your market!

2. Custom ISBN; cost: $10 [This option was discontinued by Amazon.]

This makes sense if you already have an account with (Bowker) and either don't have or don't want to use an existing ISBN. I used this for my book, Successful eBook Publishing, because I had an account and did not have an extra ISBN. I also did not expect to market my book to libraries or schools.


  • Low price
  • The name of your publishing company is listed.


The only way you can distribute this specific book is through CreateSpace, and, only if you buy select Expanded Distribution for $25 can you make your book known to other retailers (Expanded Distribution has since become a free offering). This means that you cannot print a bunch of copies for a distributor to send to bookstores or other retailers. You also cannot take your book off of CreateSpace and use this ISBN number with another service such Lightning Source (a competitor). You'll need to re-publish using a new ISBN.

Comments: I don't consider this an issue. If your book becomes hugely successful you might want to republish it anyway.

3. Universal ISBN; Cost: $99

This is a good option if it is important to be listed as the publisher, and you don't want to spend $125 to buy a single ISBN direct from Publishers of one book, or those that rarely publish and don't plan to market to libraries and schools, will find this attractive.


  • You are listed as publisher.
  • You can use this number with any publisher, i.e. if you decide to leave CreateSpace you can keep using this number.
  • Maximum flexibility


  • Cost
  • Will not be listed in the library and school catalog if you buy Expanded Distribution.

4. Provide Your Own ISBN; Cost: varies

Serious publishers own their ISBN. The cost ranges from $125 for 1 to $1,000 for 1,000 numbers.


  • You are listed as publisher.
  • You can use this number with any publisher, i.e. if you decide to leave CreateSpace you can keep using this number.
  • Maximum flexibility


  • Cost
  • Will not be listed in the library and school catalog.

For more information about these options visit the CreateSpace ISBN page here.

Additional Resources:

Register Your Book: The Essential Guide to ISBNs, Barcodes, Copyright, and LCCNs

ISBN Essentials: An FAQ for eBook Publishers

120 thoughts on “How to Choose 1 of 4 ISBN Options When Using CreateSpace as Your Print-on-Demand Printer”

  1. Can you change this at any time? Like if I want to start off w/ Expanded Distribution, then my book does well, can I upgrade to owning my ISBN?

  2. I’m not sure I understand why you would want to own your own ISBN if the book is selling well in these channels. If my book was doing well and I thought I might be able to get it into physical stores I’d leave it on Amazon as is and publish another version with a different ISBN using Lightning Source. Also, Amazon has specific rules about what you can do with their ISBN and I don’t believe Lightning Source will allow you to use a Createspace assigned ISBN. This all seems confusing now but it would be a nice problem to have.

  3. Thank you for the interesting information. Would you happen to know if there are limitations in obtaining a CreateSpace ISBN if you are not a US citizen? I intend to self-publish a book in English but I reside in Greece. Do I need to obtain a Greek ISBN? But then again I don’t intend to publish in Greece…

  4. Thanks. The way Createspace explains it left my head spinning. This makes a lot more sense. Why is there no way to market to all of the above. I’d love to be on Amazon and other distributors and schools and libraries as well. Where’s a good venn diagram of options when you need one?

  5. Despite how excited I am to publish my first book, I’m also incredibly nervous with this ISBN issue. Your article helped me to kind of sort out my confusion, though I’m still left wondering which option to choose. I’d like the least limiting option, so I assume the $99 is the way to go, but it scares me that my sales could be affected by the distribution limitations createspace sets when you don’t use their free ISBN. If you had a serious recommendation from the options they provide, which would it be? Thank you in advance… I was thrilled to find an informative article about all of this.

  6. I would go with the free option right now. When your book is successful I would invest in 10 or more ISBNs and establish a POD account with Ingram to reach even more stores and outlets. This way you keep your focus and money working to build sales through the (by far) largest retailer while you learn and practice marketing. You aren’t closing any doors with this approach. Worst case you republish your book on CS when you do Ingram and use the same ISBN.

  7. I don’t usually leave comments; but have to say that your site has been very helpful to me. I’ve spent nearly two weeks traversing the Internet attempting to gain information and understanding about ISBN’s. Your site was a breath of fresh air. It was plain, practical and easy to understand. As a first time publisher, your suggestions to other readers, and then to Steven, when you said, “I would go with the free option right now” made lots of sense, and gave me what I needed in order to make my own clear decision.

  8. Glad you found it helpful and best of luck with your book! Feel free to subscribe to our mailing list (if you didn’t already).

  9. Thanks for the great advice! My head was spinning trying to figure out which option to pick, so I’m glad I found your site. I’m going with the free option for now and will consider republishing later if my book takes off (and even then, it seems like I could still stick with my original free option). Thanks again.

  10. Thank you for this really useful article, David. I learned even more from the comments. I’ve published several books on Kindle and I’ve decided to start them out in print as well. I’ve already checked out Bowker’s MyIndentifiers prior to finding this article and I was really alarmed at the price of a single ISBN. I believe it makes sense to go for the free Creatspace-assigned ISBN for the meantime, like you suggested.

    I have a question that boggles me, however:
    I have just started a publishing company in Nigeria (still very new, I must confess), but it’s doing quite well – I have signed up over 10 authors in less than a month, and rejected nearly as much as 10 manuscripts from other authors, in the same timeframe. Although the terms are clearly stated on our website that publication will be via Amazon’s distribution services amongst others, I was thinking it’d tell more on our professionalism if I can get the ISBNs registered in my company’s name rather than Createspace’s. But then, it’s a new company and I’ve only published 3 Kindle books, with a little over 10 still waiting to be published. I don’t want to start spending the money I haven’t earned, especially since I don’t really have the money in the first place.
    I was thinking I should just use the free ISBNs for the meantime until the company is successful enough to pay for them itself. What do you suggest?

  11. John Henry Sheridan

    Thanks for this very informative article David!!!

    I am looking forward to publishing my first guitar method book very soon. I was feeling pretty vexed about the ISBN issue myself, but now that I see I am not closing any doors to go with the free CreateSpace option for now, that’s what I will do. I am definitely on a budget with this. :O)

  12. Sam, It sounds like cash must be conserved at this stage and even if you have a modest amount of capital you will need it for marketing. But longer term your strategy is to promote your publishing firm and ISBNs are one way to do that. So unless you can pony up at least $575 (or your price in Nigeria, it may be different) for 100 numbers or even better $1000 for 1,000, I’d stay with CS assigned numbers for now. Worst case is you republish the books with your ISBN. You may find yourself doing this anyway if you need to make changes or add an edition. Stay with free for now and get your marketing/publishing operations fine tuned (not to mention helping your authors be good marketers of their own book).

    I’d love to hear more about your successes there. Stay in touch.

  13. Invest all your energy in creating a valuable book John, then create another. Success will come from quality, quantity and connections, not whose name is listed next to the ISBN. Best of luck and glad you found this useful.

  14. Hi David. Thanks for all the info this is very helpful. I have a couple if additional questions: 1. If I go with a free CS ISBN and find I need my own in the future for some reason does my book need any actual changes to publish a new edition, like title, content, length, etc. or can it just list a new edition name inside the book and be exactly the same physically and content wise as the CS version?

    2. With a free CS ISBN can I purchase copies from amazon and sell them myself to consignment shops or book fairs, museums, etc?


  15. Createspace has generated 2 ISBN numbers as illustrated in your book David. Can you explain why and which I should put in my book.



  16. It is impossible for CreateSpace to issue two ISBNs for a single book. If that truly happened you need to contact them.

  17. Hi David – I have been told it is something to do with them running out of 12 figure ISBNs and moving towards 16 figure ISBNs

  18. There were 10 digits up until 1/1/1970 and after that, and now, 13 digits. For a transition period publishers listed both numbers but Bowker (US administrator) insists that publishers only reference the ISBN-13. If you have a source for the 12/16 numbers I’d love to see it. I wonder if you are referring to the 12 digit UPC? I can imaging this might move to 16 but it does not replace the ISBN. (it might also appear with an ISBN but that is only for print books sold in drug stores, supper markets and the like)

  19. Hi David,
    I actually had the same questions as Eric but didn’t see them answered.

    1. If I go with a free CS ISBN and find I need my own in the future for some reason does my book need any actual changes to publish a new edition, like title, content, length, etc. or can it just list a new edition name inside the book and be exactly the same physically and content wise as the CS version?

    2. With a free CS ISBN can I purchase copies from amazon and sell them myself to consignment shops or book fairs, museums, etc?


  20. Hi Laura,
    You book won’t require any changes if you replace the ISBN with your own. You’d just add the new ISBN on the (c) page. But keep in mind that the old ISBN would still be part of the book’s record in online stores. That’s because people are always selling used books. If you did assign a new number you might want to make other changes so as to distance you book from the old one…assuming that is even important (i.e. label it second edition or revised edition). This client did something essentially the same; she only changed the ISBN. Note there are two hardcover editions now.

    2. Yes, you buy them from your CS account at a big discount. No royalties, of course.

  21. Thanks so much, David! I will explore your site and see what your company has to offer!

  22. Hi. A really useful article. I too have been completely perplexed by this subject and am still a little worried about limiting my options too much. Is it strictly neccessary to have an ISBN at all, do you know? And if I were to take the free createspace option, would I then not be able to upload my book onto other sites, like smashwords, or sell it through my own blog? I believe that smashwords provide a free ISBN if you upload your book there and it could be possible to use tone too on amazon. Would you happen to know anything about this?
    Thanks a lot and cheers again for the ‘normal speak’ summary of the createspace ISBNs.

  23. Davey, you must have an ISBN for a print book if you plan to sell it in a store: online or a bookstore. It’s like a stock number and no getting around it. For eBooks the need for the ISBN is up to the store selling the eBook. Amazon, BN, Kobo and Apple do not require an ISBN.

    Smashwords is for eBook sales. If they require an ISBN you need to have it. CreateSpace is only print books and you MUST have an ISBN. You cannot use a CreateSpace, or any print book, ISBN for your eBook.

  24. Danielle Bernock

    What is the difference between the Universal ISBN for $99 and purchasing one directly from Bowker? Beside the cost.

  25. According to CreateSpace there is no difference. In fact, you will be directed to to first establish you account before buying the ISBN from CS. Once you buy it you will return to to complete your profile.

    To me this is a tough decision because for $151 more you get 9 more numbers and can use them for future projects.

  26. Danielle Bernock

    Do I need to have secured my DBA before I purchase my ISBN or is that attached later?

  27. Danielle, I will answer this as a business and publishing person because I am not a lawyer.

    I have never experienced or heard of Bowker cross checking the name of the publisher or imprint name with a DBA filing. Based on that, it is possible to use that name when you register for the ISBNs. But what happens if someone protests your name during the filing period? If you did your homework it should reduce the odds of this happening. I’ve had to make changes to a Bowker name registration in the past but they were minor, and I had to call (or maybe it was email…it was painless either way). If you want to be super safe you might call and ask their rules about changing the name of the publisher. (This seems like a bigger problem in the marketplace but you’re new enough that it shouldn’t cause a rebranding challenge.)

    If you really must have an ISBN now, this seems low risk. But if you can wait the 3 or so weeks, why not wait? In the meantime you don’t need an ISBN to test and proof your files on CS. You won’t be able to submit the files for the final press check but you can use the automated checker.

  28. Hi, David!

    If I register as a self-publisher on myidentifiers, can I help and assign purchased ISBN to the book that my friend wrote? Will he be listed as the author and me as a publisher?

  29. If your friend wants to be listed as the publisher than his/her publisher’s name needs to be the one listed on (The way you word your question you are the publisher and he is the author.)

  30. Victor David Sandiego

    Hi David –
    Thanks for the article. Very nice. I hope can answer what should be a simple question.

    I’d like to go with option #2, a single ISBN for $10 that I can use my own imprint name with. Later I may expand, but right now I’d like to test the waters.

    HOW do I go about buying that $10 ISBN? I’ve looked everywhere. CreateSpace shows it as an option on their help pages, but it doesn’t say how to go about buying it. I’ve got an account on and the only option I can find there is a single ISBN for $125. There’s lots of discussions on CreateSpace community, pros, cons, etc. but nobody that I’ve seen mentions how to actually go about it.

    In the title creator portion of CreateSpace, there’s only two option: (Free) and (Supply Your Own). So I need to fill in that $10 ISBN number and my imprint name, but WHERE do I buy the ISBN? Making me crazy here. I think it should be easy but I’m not finding it.

    Victor David

  31. Victor,
    In CS, when you go to select your ISBN option, choose the $10 option. You will see a place to enter your myidentifiers login information. CS will pull the name of the publisher from your Bowker record. There are two drawbacks to be aware of: 1) your book won’t be listed in the academic and library catalog and 2) you can’t use this ISBN to print your book at another printer–it is similar to option 1 in this way.

    I’m in the U.S. so maybe my options are different, but I see all 4. Since Bowker/MyIdentifiers is not the worldwide provider of ISBNs, you may see only 2. That’s the only thing I can think of.

  32. Victor David Sandiego

    Thank you David. I did read that the $10 option is only available to U.S. clients. Okay, well and good. I’m a US. client. My CreateSpace account is registered to my U.S. address. But right now I happen to be out of the country. I guess they’re using IP geo location services to limit my options, because I’ve only got the two (Free and Supply Your Own). But that’s crazy. In this day and age, limit my choice because I happen to NOT be physically located in a certain place?

    Oh well, I’m going to buy the 10-pack from Bowker for $295. I want to move forward on this project and that’ll also give me incentive to create some more projects.

    Thanks much David. I’m glad you were able to confirm that those options exist for you. Thought I was going crazy looking everywhere.

    Victor David

  33. Hi David,
    Your insight was very well said. I have my ebook version up and running with Amazon and now want to get printed version finished. I have uploaded everything, but isbn number is my main issue. I have clients that want to buy the book and also a few stores interesting in selling it. So my question is- What would be the best option for me to receive a group of books for me to sell through stores and through Amazon Createspace? Will they send me copies of my book if I purchase the isbn number that cost $99? or the more expensive one?

    Thank you

  34. Hi Frank,
    Any of the options should work for what you describe but a couple things to keep in mind. 1. If you get the free or $10 isbn you can only print at CreateSpace AND a school or library won’t be able to order your book from Baker and Taylor (who handles most of the distribution to those markets). The $99 option gives you the most flexibility and you show as the publisher. The $99 is the same as option 4 that you buy from MyIdentifiers for $125. In fact you need to setup an account there to use the $99 option. If you need just one, and want to have max control and flexibility, buy the $99 option.

  35. Christy K Robinson

    Thank you for the clearly written article. Recently, I read that because of Amazon’s predatory sales policies, brick-and-mortar bookstores are loathe to carry indie books printed by CreateSpace and others. Costco has joined the war against CS. I have two biographical novels published with CS and Kindle using the free CS-assigned ISBN and ASIN, and I’m formatting a nonfiction book with CS as we “speak.” I think the CS finished product looks and feels as good as any big-name publisher’s book. My books are receiving 5-star reviews for content and design.

    I’m a professional editor and am considering publishing under my company name to try to get around the bookstore bans. Do you have any advice for me? Should I bite the expensive bullet and buy ISBNs? I do want my books made available to libraries and schools, but if their acquisitions editors are going to be snobs about self-pubs, I’m doomed anyway.

  36. Sounds like you need your own ISBN series Christy, or at least one. The $99 option is still “official” but it is also 1/3 the price of buying 10. I often tell indies that they can start with the free Amazon ISBNs and when they get successful, use the profits to buy a series of 10 for $295. At that point you might even look at supplementing your POD printing using an account at IngramSpark. (See my blog posted dated July 16, 2014). They have different distribution arrangements that might suit your needs.

  37. Hi David,

    It’s nice that you not only compile the information and write the article, but you also answer every question. Kudos. Another one for you: I’m publishing a Children’s Book that is really an illustrated picture book with a short story (32 Pages). I’m assuming most parents would want a hard copy of a book (POD) of this nature. Would the free option still be the best option for this type of book? I won’t be publishing a lot, I have a novel that should be completed in about a year, but I take too long to write and edit to be prolific.

    Best and thanks,

  38. I have a client that is now doing a POD version of her childrens book because she found many parents still want print. The free ISBN works fine for this if you are on a budget and/or not sure of the sales opportunity.

  39. Gina Ruggiero von Eiff

    Thank you SO much for this thread. I have an e-book I put up on Amazon in June, and since then have revised and have edited further. Just doing that was such a learning experience. Now, I’m trying to decide what to do – I want a color book for family (very expensive) and a black and white to put out to the public (more reasonably priced).

    do I purchase an ISBN set or how would Amazon handle the same book presented in color and black and white – and what about barcodes – do I need barcodes on both books for pricing?

  40. Gina,
    I’m assuming you want to use Amazon’s free ISBNs. If so you need 1 for color and a different one for BW. Those are two different titles you setup in CreateSpace so they need two unique ISBNs. They will print the barcode on the book.

  41. Gina Ruggiero von Eiff

    David, thank you. I’m not understanding the need for the barcode. When you have a barcode, do you also have an ISBN number on a book?

    If I purchase my own ISBN numbers than I would also have to purchase two bar codes – one for the B&W and the other for the color?

  42. The barcode is so the retailer can ring up the sale, as it were. If you are going to sell the book, online or offline, you need one and the ISBN is part of the barcode. you need a barcode for every ISBN. Some printers, like CreateSpace, will print it for you. Others require you to provide it. Bowker will sell it to you when you buy a number or you can Google a company to generate it based on your number.

  43. Thank you for the article. It’s been very helpful so far.

    I’m writing a novel series and hoping to have it both as an ebook and in print. I was thinking about publishing it through Createspace, but was stuck with the whole ISBN thing.

    You say that most should just go with the free one or buy 10 through Bowker. I’m not sure which would be the best answer in my case. A lot of people say that multiple ISBNs are bad for distribution purposes, so if I got the free one then republished the book later, would that harm my sells? Do ebooks need a separate ISBN from the print version or does it need any at all?

    With the 10 ISBNs, could those be used with any book? Meaning I could publish 10 books with unique ISBNs in that deal? What are the pros and cons with each decision, and what do you think will work best for what I’m selling?

    My books are part of a New Adult series that I’m planning on selling though conventions and online stores. I’ll be purchasing copies to sell in person, and also use social media to promote the the online sells.

  44. Lots of questions here Kathra. I have a free 10-topic ISBN course and you can register for free at

    A few comments:
    If you can afford $295, buy 10 from Bowker and use those. You get maximum flexibility, some SEO benefit and you’ll be better off in the long run. If you use the free one, and later switch, all the book reviews will stay with the old ISBN. Watch my course!!

    1 ISBN per book format, per language, etc. It is like a serial number and cannot be reused. Whoever says ISBNs are bad for distribution doesn’t know what they are talking about or there is a misunderstanding.

  45. Hey David — Fantastic article. So glad I found it — made my choice a lot easier.

    Quick question — after you get an ISBN which is best to use on your Amazon Kindle Version Listing page — the 10 number or the 13 number? Can’t seem to find anything discussing which is preferable.

    Many thanks!

  46. David — Slightly off topic… is there some sort of penalty from taking your book off KDP Select?

    Say you got a legit, name publisher and they wanted it taken down so they can have Kindle rights immediately. Does Amazon penalize your title moving forward if you do this before the initial 90 days are up?

    Many thanks!

  47. John, your ‘contract’ will not permit early termination of the 90 day period. You’ll need to wait until the 90 days is up. Don’t forget to uncheck the auto renew box.

  48. Thanks for this post! I’m planning to publish a series of childrens books and am preparing the first one to publish through CS. Since it is the first of several in the series, do you think it’s better to purchase my own ISBNs now or is it ok to start with the free option until I (hopefully) get some revenue from the first book? Is it problematic if some books within a series are different in terms of the ISBN type? Thank you!

  49. There is no problem with the numbers being out of sequence. But if you go back and reissue this first book with a new ISBN you may have an issue with the reviews. I don’t think they will transfer to the “new” book. (On the other hand why bother worrying about it; focus on the new books.)

    One thing to consider though is branding since the publisher name listed for the free ISBN is CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. From what you are telling me I would buy the $10 ISBN option that allows me to use my own publisher name. This way the imprint name stays the same across the entire series.

  50. When I log into Createspace it only offers me two options- a free Createspace ISBN or provide your own, but I want the other option of a portable ISBN. So literally I want to know, which buttons do I need to press to make the choice?

  51. Judging from your email I’m thinking that UK publishers do not see 4 options. But if you see an option that says “provide your own”, that’s the same as a “portable” option, meaning that any printer will print your book. So buy the ISBN from the UK ISBN registrar, select that option, and you now control where the book can be printed and you are listed as the publisher. Make sense?

  52. If I choose the free ISBN, can I still order copies of my book and have the local bookstore carry some? I have put this question to several CS phone people and they said, sure, no problem.
    Just want to be sure.

  53. They can order it but the publisher will be CreateSpace and some bookstores simply refuse to sell books published by Amazon. If this is important you should go talk to your local store manager before you decide.

  54. Margaret Rose Francis

    Dear David,

    I have 3 books for publishing. I am at a wit’s end on how to understand all what they are showing in Amazon and Createspace.

    I just want a publisher to do it for me..Pls help me! I have it on PDF and Word. I just want to get them out , E and paperback. Am willing to pay the costs for publishing. I do not want to read all those terms and conditions, it is making my head spin! As long as someone can recommend me a reasonable publisher . My 2 books are poetry books, I got this review from my sister about ” Window to my soul” ..It is full of emotions of love, longing, hope, pathos and humour. It is truly a window to a soul. My brother inlaw said this: The story of a girl growing up, falling in love, getting cheated and falling out of love, so much emotion!

  55. Hi Margaret,
    This is something that I can help you with. I will contact you offline to explain the options.

  56. You are an angel. Thank you for all these great exchanges. I still have a good deal of confusion, however. I am set to publish my first manuscript (a 250pp paperback novel) and I’d like to self-publish. Please let me know what advice you have on the following:

    -Any thoughts about whether I should establish a DBA, LLC or some such for managing transactions,taxes?

    -It seems that ISBN numbers aren’t required for the most part when publishing ebooks… is that right?

    -For a novel is an ISBN number sufficient registration?

    -Like other authors here, I’d like to have options and it seems that while CS’s free ISBN has benefits, one of its limitations is that you can only use CS printers??

    -I certainly want to have the broadest distribution for my limited budget, including access through a website of my own. Do you know whether CS/Amazon preclude authors from direct sales? I’m thinking they couldn’t do that but want to be sure.

    thank you so much for your help!!!

  57. Hi Deidra, I know you have already contacted me so I’ll reply for the benefit of others…

    Publishing entity (imprint): completely optional. But if on a budget, save it for editing, production and marketing.
    ISBNs: required for print books. Only for ebooks if the store requires it, and all the big US stores do not require an ISBN.
    Registration: ISBN is fine but you should file a copyright ($35 the last time I checked…I also handle “registration” for clients: ISBNs, LoC and copyright).
    Free CS ISBN: can use only with Amazon CreateSpace.
    You can sell direct. Just buy the books from CreateSpace for a few dollars each. But you cannot sell them at a price that is lower than you sell them on Amazon.


  58. Very glad I came upon this post, David. Thank you for your generosity in sharing your expertise. I’m based in Australia and considering using CreateSpace but with my own ISBN as I want the flexibility of being able to give my file to a printer in Australia to run off some copies locally, plus if I’m travelling to the UK I’d like a local printer there to print some copies and am happy to use CS as my US printer. I also would like my own imprint to appear in the book, rather than showing as CS.

    My queries are:

    1. Iin doing the above, how do I get the Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data listing, which appears in the front matter of US books?

    2. And the same for the other countries eg in Australia it’s the National Library of Australia Cataloguing in Publication Data?

    3. What is this and how important is it? Should I change that page in the book according to where I print the book ie have the US reference for books sold on Amazon and within the US, and the Australian reference for books I hold for sale at events?

    4. What is my best option for ensuring the book is available in the relevant worldwide distribution channels’ databases eg Ingram in the US?

    My partner self-published a book a year ago but we used a local Australian firm who handled putting it on Amazon and supposedly in databases but we had to use their ISBN as they were listed as publisher and they charged a lot of money including around $11 per book (although we only printed 50 copies to begin with). I’d like a little more flexibility print-wise with mine, but want to make sure it’s listed properly wherever it should be so that it can be found by potential buyers, including bookstores.

    Thank you in advance 🙂

  59. Hi Katrina,
    Answering the Library of Congress question would get quite involved so read about it here ( Regarding the importance, assuming you even qualify, it is debatable for indie publishers. I do think it adds a little perceived value but I highly doubt you will sell more books. I’m not familiar with your country’s program but will say that these services are usually open only to a publisher based on that country.

    Being based in the US, if I want to give my client’s ebooks the widest distribution possible, and maintain the best margins, AND control my metadata (for search engine optimization benefits), I go with Amazon KDP, Apple iBooks (via iTunes Connect) and IngramSpark. For print you can use CreateSpace for Amazon and Ingram for all other channels.

    Companies like you used last year have been losing business for the reasons you describe. I know that because the number of ISBNs they issue each year is dropping fast while CreateSpace has taken off like a rocket.

    Good luck!

  60. David, you really are a wonderful human being for writing all of this and patiently responding to everyone’s requests. Thank you!! I am writing a short non-fiction book about search engine optimization to be published in print and as an e-book. Here is my understanding of the pros and cons that are most important to me (other than cost). Free CS ISBN with Expanded Distribution will put your book on a list that is used by libraries and academic institutions to find new material. The only option to get on that list is to use the CS free option. The main con to using CS as the publisher is that local book stores may refuse to carry an Amazon published book. I don’t care about being listed as publisher, but I think I might not be understanding why this is important. If I start selling a lot of books, I can always republish and get my own ISBN and get a different publisher. The main disadvantage of republishing with a new ISBN is that any reviews you racked up will not be carried over to new book. In my case, I believe the advantages of being on the expanded distribution list are more important than being in local book stores (my book is not for laypeople wandering around a book store.) I plan to sell most of the books through my own website and at speaking engagements. However, it is possible that libraries might pick it up as educational materials. Thus, I think the free option is best for right now. Does this sound like I am I missing any important concepts here? I truly appreciate your help!!

  61. No, I think you have throught it through and understand the pros and cons in your case. What a lot of people don’t realize is that they–as publisher–have to do something to get these other buyers to order a book. Just b/c it the book is “on a list” doesn’t mean it will get ordered. Good luck with your title!

  62. Hey David,
    thanks for your great post. To understand you correctly: Isn´t it a disadvantage of the CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN too, that you can only use this ISBN (and thus the whole book) within Createspace then?!

  63. Not necessarily. First, the CreateSpace limitation on what you can do with the ISBN is similar to other services that offer a free ISBN (Lulu, AuthorSolutions, etc. read the fine print). Also, because you can enable Expanded Distribution the book will still be sold on Barnes & Noble and through distributors such as Ingram and NACSCORP. The bigger drawbacks are branding and perhaps the ability to switch to someone like Ingram for POD.

  64. Thanks David – you´re right. You can always switch to another POD service and unlist you book from CS.

  65. Thank you for this great article!

    I read that some successful authors wish they would have purchased their ISPN outright from Bowker. Can I upload to CreateSpace and still use the same free ISPN for Amazon KDP, Apple iBooks (via iTunes Connect) and IngramSpark?

    Sorry if you already answered this, but I read as much as my schedule allowed.

    Thanks in advance!

  66. Sorry, one last question.

    If I buy my own ISPN, I don’t get into some sort of academic or educational database? Could you please explain?


  67. You cannot use a CreateSpace assigned ISBN at Ingram. Apple iBooks are eBooks and CreateSpace is print. You would never use the same ISBN for both since you need a unique ISBN for each specific format. Besides, Apple does not require an ISBN (they used to, not anymore).

  68. Buying an ISBN gets you into Books in Print. There are many databases so I would need you to be specific as to the name of the academic and educational databases you are referring to.

  69. Sorry, but I don’t know. I was only going by your advice.

    You say that one of the pro’s of a free ISBN is because, “This is the only way you can make your book available for purchase by libraries and academic institutions.”

    Is this that big of a market? It seems most of them would only buy a single book to make available to students and teachers. Why is this the only way they can access it?

    I am leaning hard toward buying my own ISBN’s because I want to produce an eBook and a softcover that I would upload to several retail websites. The softcover would only be on Amazon since they will publish it, but the eBook would be on as many sites as I can find to sell it.

    What would you recommend?

    Thanks so much!

  70. It’s been five minutes and I’ve changed my mind again. Ha!

    I realized that I am using Amazon to print my book so it would be fine to get their free ISBN. It would be different if I had a publishing company printing books that I hoped to sell all over. Since I have to rely on Amazon to print them, I can still upload eBooks on as many different sites as I want using their free different ISBN’s. Right? The eBooks just wouldn’t be linked by a common ISBN. Is that so bad?

    Thanks again!

  71. Budgets aside, I would buy my own ISBNs. When I say the free CS ISBN “pro” (vs con) I mean it is one of the advantages they give. Personally I don’t think this is that valuable for most small/new publishers. Even if it is in a catalog it doesn’t mean someone will order it. Owning your own ISBN means you can print your book anywhere. Also, if you choose the free one now for a print book, and want to change to a paid one later, your reviews will stay with the ISBN they were written for.

  72. That’s what I thought. Thank you again for the excellent post and your quick responses.

    I can’t thank you enough!

    – Jim

    P.S. – Watch for “How to Raise Great Kids: 101 Fun & Easy Ways” coming to Amazon as soon as I can get my act together. Ha!

  73. Hi David,

    I so appreciate your post and all of the questions and answers. I am of course new to this book thing. I am also considering publishing with CS. I have read that if I use the free or the $10 options that I will still get to print the books and they are on different places for distribution. I know that if I change to the $99 option I will lose all my reviews.

    However I thought I read that the previous Isbn will still be in the book? Wouldnt that include any reviews? Also will the new Isbn affect the overall sales of my book?

    Thanks in advance for your response!

  74. Angel, if you publish a print book with an ISBN, and then republish with a new ISBN, you could have 2 book listings on Amazon. The first one would have reviews if you had reviews. If this was published with CreateSpace, and you unpublish the book, someone can still sell your first edition as a used book and you cannot prevent that from happening.

    Just having an ISBN isn’t necessarily going to affect sales.

  75. Hi David,

    I echo all the praise I’ve just read about your article’s clarity and your patience in answering all these questions! In fact, I’ve pondered long as to whether or not my questions have been answered in previous emails but still am in a quandary as to which direction to take.

    I’ve written a children’s book that is a biography and beautifully illustrated. After giving the book to a local author who has published widely, I was encouraged and directed to an agent. I spent much time providing the requested lengthly proposal and haven’t heard back from her in the 2 months since. I was told by my author friend that I needed to create a website and start marketing. I have an opportunity to present the book at a children’s event this summer and am so ready (it’s been 5 years in the making) to get it out there. Am debating publishing 100 copies through CS . I am a writer and Graphic Designer and have done so for others.

    I have other projects I’d like to do, but feel I’ve hit a wall. It’s all just so complicated! Should I just move on with CS and forget the agent? If I have other projects and have to set up a website for this book, wouldn’t it make the most sense to do so under my own publishing name if I had the option financially to do so? Also, what about the copyright issue? What are the circumstances that would warrant that?

    One thing I did discover during the exhaustive proposal experience was that there are no books like mine out there. And, being a children’s book, I can’t help but wonder if going the cheapest route, free ISBN with CS, I’d at least have the option to get it into some schools and libraries. So many options….

    Thanks in advance for your response!

  76. Well Cheri, I’ll answer the best I can for a post comment. It seems to me that if you’ve put this much time into it, and you feel it is unique, you should invest in at least 10 ISBNs and use that instead of the free one. That way you can print anywhere, not just CS. Color POD can be expensive. As to the other questions, it is becoming increasing tough to get an agent for first books. Indie publishing doesn’t have the stigma it used to but I think any first book author that can be traditionally published should seriously consider it. Which means you might consider trying a few more agents before giving up. If you do proceed I would start with an author site. Read my post on websites for hybrid authors: Regardless of indie or trad publishing, you can’t start marketing yourself too soon. Good luck.

  77. Thank you so much for making this part of the process much easier to understand! I am about to self publish my first book with Amazon and you have helped a whole lot. 🙂

  78. Hi David, fantastic article (and comments/responses).

    I am a Canadian citizen residing in Canada. I have written a trilogy which I plan on printing with Createspace, and also publishing the e-book with Amazon Kindle (plan on taking advantage of KDP Select).

    I have done everything myself (writing, editing, book cover, etc.. Even copyrighted the premise of the novel (a hybrid theory) within Canada and the United States); I would like to retain maximum rights. I also want my reviews to be cumulative, and as such wish to avoid re-printing with a new ISBN.

    My question is:

    As a Canadian, can I use the Createspace ISBNs?
    If I don’t care about being distributed to schools/libraries, should I purchase the $99 option?
    If I use my author name as ‘Publisher’, do I have to set up a company?

    Is there much difference between Createspace $99 option and purchasing directly from Bowker?

    Thank you so much!

  79. Canadian ISBNs are free so why not use that option? You can use any name as the publisher, but I’d avoid using a name. Pick a name. You don’t need to establish a DBA unless you plan to cash check under that name and/or setup a bank account. There is no difference between buying the $99 option from CS vs Bowker, but again, get a free one in your own country. You can publish anywhere.

  80. Hi David,

    Thank you so much for this easy to understand article plus all your well-explained comment answers! I just read all of them!

    1. My biggest concern is about the privacy of my home mailing address. I’ve heard that CreateSpace requires you to give your real home address, and I can understand that if you want to order book copies for yourself, but do they print your home address on your book?

    When I look at paperback books I have at home, it always lists the street address of the publisher. I’m confused about who the publisher actually is if I use the CreateSpace $10 option (or the free option although I’m leaning towards the $10 option). What street address will it show on my book?

    2. For the $10 option, do I register with Bowker (myidentifiers dot com) first (BEFORE filling out the CreateSpace registration form) and is it free?

    Thanks in advance for any help, especially with the first (street address) question (it really has me nervous!)!

  81. Could you list 2 versions in CreateSpace? 1 uses the custom ISBN for sale on Amazon, etc. and the other is ONLY set up to sell to libraries and schools using a free ISBN?

  82. Hi Amy,
    They do not print your address inside your book, or any address. they print the PDF that you upload, period (well, they do add a small barcode and number in the back). and you don’t need to list a formal address in the book, unless you want to.

    The $10 option is essential the free option except it shows your name as publisher. You do not need a Bowker account..

  83. Anthony, I am reasonably certain you cannot exclude as a retailer so this wouldn’t work. Call CS to be certain since this is more of a distribution question.

  84. Hello. I just submitted a manuscript for publication with create space. I was hoodwinked by the 99 dollar option thinking paying for an ISBN had to mean ‘better’. So my question is, what am I missing out on by having chose this option over the free one? I know I’m missing out on getting it into schools and libraries, but anything else? Will create space still distribute my book as widely as if I had gotten the free one?

  85. You were not hoodwinked. If anything, you could have spent $275 to buy 10 but you are definitely not alone. The good news is that you have full control over the future of your book and it will be in YOUR name in all the major book databases, rather than the showing Createspace as the publisher.

  86. Great article. But I’m still not sure how to handle the whole ISBN thing. I’ve written a middle-grade novel that I want to self-publish. If I get my ISBN with CreateSpace, I could technically get into libraries. That would be great for a kid’s book. However, I also would like to publish my book with Barnes & Noble and Kobo. If I get my ISBN through CreateSpace, would I not be able to publish my book anywhere else?

  87. The free CS ISBN just says the publisher is CS, you can still sell your print book on B&N. Kobo is ebooks only so that isn’t relevant. But having the free ISBN doesn’t get your book into libraries. All it means is that it will appear in the Baker and Taylor ordering system which libraries use (not exclusively i might add). The fact remains that the libraries need to learn enough about your book so that they get interested to look for it, and but it.

  88. Thank you for this great resource. I have read it top to bottom. I plan to publish a children’s picture book, the first in a series, through Createspace and market it to independent bookstores, schools, and libraries. It looks like Independents do not like to sell Createspace-published books but schools and libraries can only order Createspace-published books (ie with the free CS ISBN that includes expanded distribution). Is that correct? If schools and libraries decide to buy my book, did you say in one post that there are other options they could use to order it? Createspace would be my only printer and I am able to order an ISBN package through Bowker.

  89. I think you will be better off in the long run to buy your own ISBNs. The ‘schools and libraries’ that CS refers to are the institutions that buy from Baker and Taylor. The trick is getting the schools and libraries to buy in the first place, which is usually hard for new publishers. If this is truly a market, you need to demonstrate to B&T there is demand. If so, they will buy from you. It is not simple in either case. You have two not so great choices: show the world a publisher name of CreateSpace, or convince B&T to carry your books. I’ll take my chances with the latter any day! Best of luck.

  90. I need ISBN for my paperback Novel. So my question is Will CreateSpace provide me ISBN, though I am residing in India and language of Novel is Gujarati?? Further I want to print my novel at my place and want to distribute it with my way, I want only ISBN from createspace and no other help I needed so which option will suite me – $10 or $99

  91. I do not follow how CreateSpace works with the local market in India. They have excellent customer support-you should contact them directly. Keep in mind that ISBNs are assigned based on the location of the publisher. If you want to have a US ISBN, you need to be a US publisher. You can look up the agency for India here:

  92. Jennifer Arntson

    Thank you , thank you, thank you! I read the post of the author intending on publishing a series and your recommendation for the $10 ISBN with Create Space option. Like them, I have a 5-book series (written and under revisions) so I’m leaning on the ISBN you recommend. By using it, and effectively creating my own publishing company, would I then need to name it and apply for a business lic?

    Thank you for being such a valuable resource the Inde writer!
    Jennifer Arntson,

  93. If you are doing 5 books, I hope my advice was to own your own ISBNs! That way you can leave CreateSpace at any time without needing a new ISBN, which might mean losing your reviews. If you want to cash checks in the name of the publishing company you will need a bank account with that name, which means you need to file a DBA which means you might need a license. Check your local laws and banking requirements. But some people pick a name and just use their personal banking accounts.

  94. There is no $10 “custom ISBN” option on Createspace, at least not any more. Instead, there is a $99 “custom universal” option only. Something else your readers may be interested to know is that a major drawback to the Createspace free ISBN is the unwillingness of retail book stores to stock Createspace-published books due to the inability to return unsold or returned books. Books can be special-ordered only but not returned. Another disadvantage is that legitimate book review publications won’t touch books with a Createspace imprint. Even with your own imprint, you need to submit uncorrected page proofs, galleys, or pre-publication copies with the ISBN already assigned, a minimum of 3 months prior to publication, to even be considered for a book review. Createspace-assigned ISBN’s don’t fit the bill. However, if bookstore sales and book reviews aren’t important, the free option is the most affordable way to get listed on Amazon and other online sellers. Beware: the quality of the printed books Createspace produces isn’t quite up to industry standards (another reason bookstores won’t touch them.)

  95. Thanks for the update about CreateSpace dropping the custom ISBN option. It is something that confused many self-publishers.

    Regarding POD books, they are all of similar quality and there are many, many printers. It’s the nature of this type of printing. But I suspect that for the author/publisher selling enough books to be stocked at a physical store, the books they are distributing are printed offset.

  96. If I go to Kinkos and make a copy, I do not need an ISBN.
    Why does CS require an ISBN to print a book,
    if all I want is to make a product that looks like a book for my parents?

    I wrote a book; and now, all I want (at this stage) is to make one or two copies without becoming legally entangled by small print and ISBN issues.

    I am unsure if the free ISBN is a nice service or a way of entrapping authors.
    I don’t have a law degree to fully appreciate the fine print in terms and conditions agreements

  97. Is it worth the expense to setup a minimal presence in Canada just to get their free ISBNs? I’m talking just renting a mailbox or such for my mailing address. It may be sneaky but doesn’t seem illegal.

  98. I have several questions for which I have not been able to find an answer:

    1) If I use my own ISBN purchased from Bowker, will Amazon provide the barcode, or do I have to purchase that, too?

    2) If an individual copy is ordered through the website, does Amazon itself take care of the order, including charging and collecting the shipping costs and mailing the book?

    3) I am intending to publish a young child’s educational workbook through CS. A teacher could order one copy and photocopy pages for his/her class; but if a teacher wanted to order enough copies for an entire class, would a school district be able to do this without expanded distribution? If the district requires purchase with a purchase order, do you know if this would be possible?

    4) I read on one of the above posts that it would be possible for me to buy my own books from CS for a few dollars and then resell them (minus royalties), as long as I did not sell them at a lower price than my list price. Is this correct? If so, how would I order them? And theoretically, couldn’t I make more money this way, than through royalties? (Of course, I would be responsible for shipping costs.)

    5) Finally, I was under the impression that my work is copyrighted, just by putting the copyright symbol on it. Wrong? it must be “filed”?

    Thank you so much!

  99. The lowest price legit ISBN I’ve seen is from IngramSpark and it is $85. Seems cheaper than dealing with what you describe which doesn’t seem “free.”

  100. This is too involved for thorough answers so I’ll give you a few basics. If you need more, contact me for consulting (
    CS provides the barcode | Yes | It is best if they buy from you, or you setup an account with IngramSpark | You can buy your book at cost from CS and resell it any way you like, at any price, and pay no royalties–it’s your book! | Yes, technically.

    My book, Register Your Book, has the details about barcodes, copyright, LCCN and ISBNs. (eBook)

  101. If I use the free ISBN from CreateSpace and I get lucky and a traditional publisher wants to publish my book can the TP re-publish using their the ISBN number?

  102. They would do that as a matter of course anyway. You wouldn’t have a choice. All your reviews would stay with the old ISBN.

  103. Hi David, my wife and I recently launched a business selling baby memory books with prompts for parents to fill out. They are all hardcover and come in three unique colors (content is identical).

    Each of the books has a bellyband but since we do not yet have an ISBN, there is no barcode. Also, for the existing inventory, the books are shrinkwrapped with the bellyband inside. so getting barcodes on them would be tricky.

    1. Do we need a unique ISBN for each of the colors?
    2. Do we need an ISBN to sell on Amazon and if so, do we need barcodes on the books?
    3. If the answer to #2 is yes and yes, is there an easy way to get the barcode onto our current inventory without having to remove the shrinkwrap?

    Thanks for the help!


  104. Hello Cody. Good questions. A unique ISBN is needed for each color. Yes, it is required to sell a book on Amazon. I believe Amazon would require the barcode but the fact is that it would be with the ISBN in your case anyway. There are companies that specialize in printing the ISBN/barcode as a sticker. Put this on every book in such a way that it won’t fall off.
    Good luck.

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