If you have or are currently working on writing a family book, then consider whether you want your book to be found by a wider audience, perhaps online, through bookstores or in libraries and archives. One of the surest ways the general public, distant cousins and future descendants can find your book is through an ISBN number.
What is an ISBN number and why would I need one?
An ISBN number is an International Standard Book Number. It is a unique 13-digit number that identifies a published book. Librarians, booksellers and publishers use it to categorize a book including your family history book. An ISBN number recognizes the title as a unique, and identifies your book as your book.
It’s also how people will find your book – all the search engines key off it (Google, Yahoo, Bing); all of the bookstores organize their whole database listings off of it, and in the web and social networking world (Amazon.com, Facebook, digital libraries) it is vital to getting your book exposed, discovered, and sold.
If you plan to publish a family history book, that you intend to sell it in bookstores or online you undoubtedly need an ISBN number. If you intend to provide copies to libraries or archives, than you also will need an ISBN number. If your intention is only to provide your book to family members and not provide it to the general public then you will not require an ISBN number.
Where to I get my ISBN number?
You apply for an ISBN number from the country in which you (the publisher) are based. An ISBN is usually the responsibility of the publisher. If you are self-publishing that means you, whoever has the ultimate financial responsibility for the book.
In Canada, ISBN numbers can be obtained through the Library and Archives Canada. This is a free service to publishers and issued within 10 days. Collections Canada requests that you send them one to two copies (based on the number of books that are published) to help preserve Canadian published heritage.
In the United States, Bowker is an official ISBN Agency at http://www.isbn.org/ . Various packages are available online, starting at $125.00. These costs cover the registration of your book at the Library of Congress.
By ensuring your book has an ISBN number you will guarantee your family history book will be found by the widest audience possible.