The Myth of the eISBN: When eBooks Need an ISBN

  • There is no such thing as an eISBN
  • Different products require unique identification
  • Best practices for eBook publishers

The Myth of the eISBN: Why Every eBook Edition Needs a Unique Number

6 thoughts on “The Myth of the eISBN: When eBooks Need an ISBN”

  1. Fantastic article David! :)) Thanks a lot – i was absolutly confused when i was reading about a “eISBN” in Kobo… Crasy 😀
    Now i can sleep in peace.

  2. I am converting our paper book to an ebook. I noticed on a Hunger games ebook, that there was an e-isbn number included in the copyright information. Glad to find your information and know that is incorrect!

    The correct way is to get a new ISBN for each format I use (EPUB, MOBI). What is the best (and most economical) way to get these numbers? Should the paper format ISBN numbers be referenced when Applying?

    Our book currently has an ISBN number for Paperback, one for Hardcover, and also a Library of Congress number. I should also mention that the content will Not change from paper to electronic, but I will not include an index and some of the fonts and formatting etc will obviously change.

    Thank you,

  3. Hi Cindie. The only official source of ISBNs in the US is Bowker at Also, Bowker has changed their position and you do *not* need a separate ISBN for the EPUB and Mobi…just one number will do unless those two files have different content (i.e. one has video embedded and the other doesn’t). If you already have an ISBN, you must have an account with Bowker. Just buy more numbers for that account.

    I have recorded a 10 part training video on ISBNs and it covers all this. It is currently free for a limited time. You can learn more at

  4. Amanda Greenslade

    I agree with you in part. I agree that different versions/editions of a book need a different ISBN. However, as a matter of our quality control and workflow we create the mobi from the epub, therefore it is the same edition of the book, and we use the same ISBN. We only use different ISBNs as a standard procedure for the enhanced edition, or for a completely different layout (as in the case of an iBooks Author version of the same book).

  5. Yes, that is the accepted best practice now: use the same ISBN if the content is the same. Bowker’s guidance about assigning ISBNs has changed since this post was written. Nevertheless, the publisher may wish to assign unique ISBNs to different formats if they are tracking and reporting sales by format (not unlike how and why a serial number is used). Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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