Do you need a barcode? I-Yes-BN or ISB-No?

Do you need a barcode



Do you need a barcode? To buy or not to buy an ISBN can be one of the most difficult questions for a self-published author. These unique identifiers are the international standard for cataloging and indexing books, and are used by brick-and-mortar and e-commerce retailers alike. Regardless, an ISBN is not strictly necessary to sell your book, and in some cases can be quite pricy. So is it worth it?

Let’s examine some of the pros and cons of purchasing an ISBN for your book.


  • Control and Ownership: Owning your ISBN gives you complete control over your book’s metadata, allowing you to update information and manage your book’s identity.
  • Perceived Value: An ISBN adds a veneer of professionalism to your book. It signals that your work is published independently and is an identified part of the publishing ecosystem.
  • Global Reach: An ISBN is essential for your book’s distribution through bookstores, online retailers, and libraries, putting your work in reach of a global audience.
  • Marketing Analysis: Owning your ISBN allows you to track sales, monitor distribution channels, and make informed marketing decisions.


  • Cost: Purchasing an ISBN can be costly, especially if you need multiple ISBNs. That said, ISBNs are often discounted if purchased in bulk.
  • Availability: ISBNs are issued only by designated agencies in their respective countries. Depending on your location, availability and pricing may vary. In the United States, ISBNs can be purchased through Bowker, the country’s sole ISBN agency.
  • Complexity: Understanding the intricacies of ISBNs and their associated metadata can be overwhelming for new authors.
  • Publisher Name: Certain publishing services are able to assign ISBNs at greatly reduced (and sometimes no) cost. However, the ISBN will be tied to the publishing service, and not your own name or imprint, which will affect how your book appears in databases. Moreover, you will not be the legal owner of said identifier.

So do you need a barcode? The choice of whether or not to purchase an ISBN ultimately depends on the level of cost and commitment you’re willing to expend, and whether or not it’s necessary for your chosen distribution.

At Presto Page, we’re happy to incorporate an ISBN into your book design. If you’re still not sure if an ISBN is necessary, reach out to our team today for a personalized consultation.

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