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Journal Chacham's Journal: Verbiage: ISBN charges 6

So, a friend of mine wants to write a book on some research he has done in his area of expertise. I'm looking to help him with organization, layout, and publishing. Publishing includes whether to use a publishshing house, or self-publishing such as print on demand.

This requires looking into the prices involved. Before looking at advertising and distribution, the actual price of printing must be looked at. From a recent post on slashdot it seem that under five dollars a copy (for low quantity print on demand) can be expected. That means they just print and bind it, with no error checking, advice, or anything from them.

Then comes the ISBN. While an ISBN in not required, its relatively unsearchable without one. ISBNs must be purchased by the country one publishes in (unless using an international publisher), and for the US, that's Bowker.

Going specifically to the ISBN part of their website goes to, which in itself is ironic. An application can be filed online or in print.

Now for the prices. First part is the processing surcharge. Priority is seventy-five dollars and express is one-hundred twenty-five dollars. Since i need neither, that is actually irrelevant.

Next comes the publsiher's registration fee. This is the important part. Since ISBN's are ten numbers, the first number is country, and the last is a check number, the next eight numbers define both the publisher and the amount of titles they can catalog with that number. So, if using a seven digit publisher number, the publisher can catalog ten different titles. So, the less digits in the publisher number, the more it costs, since more cataloging can be done. This also means that ISBNs can only be purchased in powers on ten.

The prices per publishing number are then added to some other number (that i don't see explained) to come up with a higher number. Here are the prices (the publisher prices are actually five cents less than shown).


I'd love to know why the actual charges are so high. Also, why one alone cannot be purchased.

Anyway, it's interesting to note how charges work.

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Verbiage: ISBN charges

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  • Here in Canada, ISBN's are assigned by the National Library (the equivalent of the US Library of Congress). There's no charge and you can even apply online []. All that's asked is basic contact info, how many ISBN numbers you anticipate needing in the next five years (up to 10, 10+, 100+, 1000+, etc.), and the titles of the (current) publications. About 60 seconds of work.

To downgrade the human mind is bad theology. - C. K. Chesterton