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Why did I receive this message? The ISBN entered cannot be validated. Please see the help center for information on acquiring a valid ISBN.
What's an ISBN? Why do I need one? Why is my ISBN already in use? Where do I get an ISBN? Answers to these questions and more are included in this article.
Independent publishers and authors are responsible for acquiring ISBNs or EANs for their books. A valid and unique ISBN/EAN is needed for books sold through Ingram's Global Distribution network of more than 40,000 bookstores, retailers, libraries, and schools.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: There are websites where you can obtain a free-generated ISBN. DO NOT USE these ISBNs as they are not valid. ISBNs are created using a complex mathematical solution to create a unique identifier & must also be registered with the International Standard Book Number’s governing bodies, such as Bowker in the United States at https://www.myidentifiers.com/ or Neilsen in the United Kingdom at https://www.nielsenisbnstore.com/Home/Isbn. Unregistered, invalid ISBNs will result in the removal of your title & possibly the closure of your IngramSpark account. We do not recommend purchasing ISBNs or EANs from other publishers or sources.
An ISBN (International Standard Book Number), also known as EAN (European Article Number), is a unique thirteen-digit item code provided by your country’s ISBN agency and assigned by publishers to identify the format and edition of a title.
A published book will have a different ISBN or EAN for each product type—one for the hardcover edition, one for the paperback edition, and one for the digital/ebook edition. Retailers and distributors require published titles to have an ISBN/EAN assigned to them for sales and inventory purposes.
Since a book has an ISBN number to identify it, the EAN barcode for a book is then generated from the ISBN of the book. An ISBN and EAN are essentially the same.
If located outside the United States you can visit https://www.isbn-international.org/ to find out where to purchase an ISBN/EAN.
- You can purchase ISBNs from Bowker, YOU own the ISBN. The US ISBN Agency can be located at (myidentifiers.com). Check their website for current pricing.
- You can purchase ISBNs through your IngramSpark account, for $85 each, when setting up your book and you will own the ISBN. ISBNs purchased through IngramSpark are non-refundable.
- Obtain a free ISBN from IngramSpark when setting up your new title. Please note the following stipulations when using the free ISBN:
- The imprint will be listed as Indy Pub
- Any title with a free ISBN must be placed in our wholesale distribution program
- ISBN cannot be transferred to another account in the future
- ISBN cannot be used on any other publishing platforms
- Pricing for at least one distribution market is required and the book will be available for sale through each market pricing is provided for
- If you use a free ISBN and later decide you want to own the ISBN, you will have to set up the book as a new title and purchase a different ISBN for the book
- Promo codes cannot be used in conjunction with a free ISBN (Example: promo codes for free title setup)
Be sure to use the same ISBN/EAN for your book in all markets. Listing the same book with different ISBNs or EANs on multiple websites or with multiple distributors may confuse retailers and consumers wanting to purchase your book.
More from ISBN.org: When participating in the ISBN standard, publishers and self-publishers are required to report all information about titles to which they have assigned ISBNs. For more than thirty years, ISBNs were 10 digits long. On January 1, 2007, the ISBN system switched to a 13-digit format. Now all ISBNs are 13 digits long.
A 10-digit ISBN cannot be converted to 13 digits merely by placing three digits in front of or at the end of the 10-digit number. There is an algorithm that frequently results in a change of the last digit of the ISBN.
Visit https://www.isbn.org/about_ISBN_standard to learn more about ISBNs and why they are needed.
When setting up a new title, if you enter an ISBN and receive the message "ISBN Not Valid" or "The ISBN entered cannot be validated. Please see the help center for information on acquiring a valid ISBN."
If an ISBN appears as valid and you don't own it, it belongs to another publisher. This can cause the cancellation of your book and the closure of your account.
SKU (stock keeping unit) is an identification code, usually alphanumeric, of a product that allows it to be tracked for inventory purposes. If you don't want your book available for sale through Ingram's global distribution network, IngramSpark can assign a free inventory code (SKU) to your book for printing and manufacturing purposes. When setting up your title you can select “Click here if you would like a non-distributable SKU to be assigned to this title”.
You will also need to upload the cover and interior files. You can then have IngramSpark Support cancel the title with the SKU if you wish.
Each country has a single approved and designated agency that issues ISBNs for publishers and self-publishers located in that country. Bowker is the official ISBN agency for the US; Nielsen is the official ISBN agency for the UK and Ireland; Thorpe-Bowker is the official ISBN agency for Australia (https://www.bowker.com/en/products-services/isbn-au/). IngramSpark does business in many other countries, so we encourage each customer to ensure they are acquiring their ISBN from their country’s approved ISBN Agency. To find the approved ISBN agency for your country click HERE.
In certain instances, IngramSpark will allow customers to request a transfer of an ISBN (and book files) from a previous publisher into an IngramSpark account. However, in these instances, you must own the ISBN outright - it can't be an ISBN that belongs to and was assigned by your previous publisher. In some instances, IngramSpark customers can request the transfer of ISBNs they own from some other self-publishing platforms.
For ISBN transfers from non-self-publishing entities, you must reach out to your previous publisher to request a transfer of the ISBN (and files) into your IngramSpark account. Click HERE to learn more about the Title Transfer process.
Again, you must own the ISBN, as ISBN agency rules do not allow for the transfer of ownership of a publisher-owned ISBN.
When entering an ISBN recognized as being owned by another publisher you will either be blocked from setting up the title or allowed to request a transfer of the ISBN (if applicable - i.e. from another self-publishing platform).
Our website will guide you through the process of requesting an ISBN transfer if applicable. The IngramSpark Client Support team will process valid ISBN transfer requests with the respective publishing platform.
Once a transfer has been granted, our Client Support team will contact you to let you know that the transfer has been completed. The timeline of this process can vary greatly (2-6 weeks), as it is largely dependent upon the response of the current holder of the ISBN granting permission for the ISBN transfer. To expedite this process, we recommend reaching out directly to your previous self-publishing platform instead of processing the request via the IngramSpark Client Support team.
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