By obtaining an ISBN you will be able to take the necessary steps to ensure that your book is widely known and to maximise its sales potential.

If you are a publisher or bookseller it is in your interest to use ISBN as it is likely to help you to sell books. Books that cannot be ordered and distributed by ISBN and that are not listed in Books in Print type listings may not sell as many copies as they could. People will assume that the books do not exist, and even if they do know they exist, they may consider it is too much bother to handle them since they will need to do so using lengthy manual ordering processes.

If you have published a book that you think can be successfully marketed in other countries as well as your own, then you should contact the respective ISBN agency in each of the countries to ask them for details about how your book can be included in their national catalogue for books in circulation (books in print). Sometimes you will have to obtain a distributor from that country or to have an address in that country before this is possible. In some circumstances there are certain other restrictions - for example, only books in the language of that country can be listed.

As well as catalogues of books in circulation, you may also want to ensure that you are listed by internet retailers such as Amazon. Again, you will need to contact each of these organisations directly (including each separate international branch) with details of your book. You can contact Amazon UK, for instance, through the publisher section of their site.

The benefits of ISBN include:

  • The ISBN is a unique international identifier for monographic publications; assigning a number replaces the handling of long bibliographic descriptive records, thereby saving time and staff costs and reducing copying errors.
  • Correct use of the ISBN allows different product forms and editions of a book, whether printed or digital, to be clearly differentiated, ensuring that customers receive the version that they require.
  • The ISBN facilitates compilation and updating of book-trade directories and bibliographic databases, such as catalogues of books-in-print. Information on available books can be found easily.
  • Ordering and distribution of books is mainly executed by ISBN; this is a fast and efficient method.
  • The ISBN is machine-readable in the form of a 13-digit EAN-13 bar code. This is fast and avoids mistakes.
  • The ISBN is required for the running of electronic point-of-sale systems in bookshops.
  • Many publishing and supply chain systems are based on ISBN.
  • The accumulation of sales data is done by the ISBN. This enables the varying successes of different product forms and editions of publications to be monitored, as well as enabling comparisons between different subject areas and even different publishing houses.
  • The national lending right in some countries is based on the ISBN. Such schemes enable authors and illustrators to receive payments proportionate to the number of times that their books are lent out by public libraries.