Saturday, 13 June 2015

How I obtained ISBNs as a self-publisher in India.

Unlike several other countries, India issues ISBN numbers free, both to the publishing companies and to self publishers. The Raja Rammohun Roy National Agency for ISBN, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development is the concerned agency and is situated in New Delhi. The Ministry has explained the whole concept of ISBNs here and a quick read gives great understanding. 
The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) uniquely identifies the book across the globe and is issued publisher-wise, NOT author wise. While sites such as createspace do give you ISBNs for your book, if you use theirs, effectively you restrict usage of this ISBN of your book to this publisher only. I preferred keeping all rights with myself and so got my own ISBNs.
The various proforma are also available on MHRD's site. For individuals who are self publishers of books, there is a really simple form - I doubt it could be simpler - here is the link to the form  
What I did was downloaded the form and entered the required details. I then needed to attach only three items, the cover page of the book, valid ID proof and a stamped self addressed envelop - to enable them to send the allotment letter back. I then submitted the form.
Unlike several developed countries, India has made the process free and simple, thereby encouraging self-publishers. I could very easily obtain two ISBNs (for the ebook and the paper back versions) for my book  "Our Heritage Revisited : A glimpse into ancient Indian texts"  which today is available across various Amazon online stores.  So, if you are a self-publisher, go right ahead, the process could not be easier.


  1. I'm planning on publishing my novel soon. Do I need to send a separate application for Paperback/ Kindle/ iBookstore/ Hardback etc. for each version I decide?

    Or do I mention in the application form for which versions I would like the ISBN? Please some guidance. Thanks.

  2. Follow Up question:
    Don't you need the ISBN number before you get a book published so that it can be included on the inside/ outside of the book?

    Application form asks 'Year of Publication'/'Place of Publication'?

    In this day and age, sending mail to get this done, seems quaint - is there nothing online for this in your experience? Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks.

  3. Saurabh,
    I assume you are planning to self-publish so I will answer based on my own experience.

    To respond to your first question, you need separate ISBNs for ebook, paperback and hardbound. As far as Kindle is concerned, they allow you to enter your ISBN no. (which is the option I have preferred), but they also allot their own ASIN and allow you to upload your book without an ISBN. I am not too sure about ibook since I have not yet uploaded my book here.I suggest you look at their site - in any case if you have obtained a number for an ebook, that should be adequate. And yes you need to mention the versions since you will get separate ISBN nos. for each version.

    Coming to your second comment, an ISBN is not needed if you plan giving/ selling your book within your circle of friends etc. It is required if you plan selling in bookstores, to libraries etc. So you do not need to get these ab-initio. I did not, until I found that the book might have more readers. Presently I am pasting the number on the required place in the book but I am still basically only at the level of an extended circle of friends of friends and trying to expand. If you have not published, mention current year and the place you will be using - residence/ office etc. And yes, the form has to be either posted by mail or hand delivered.

    Good luck on your book

  4. This is very informative. Given me the key to now open a world of writing without thinking of the publishing hassles.

  5. Thanks Kamini. But in self-publishing, the easy bit is the printing and publishing, the tough bit is the marketing which I am still working on, with some small results in the US so far.
    Incidentally, our blog interaction goes back several years - to your excellent story of Gokarna in October 2012. it is good to touch base with you again.
    I shall be sending you a separate email and perhaps we can interact more closely.

  6. THis is great! THere are several ideas buzzing in my head. Especially related to Yoga and our scriptures. I have been wanting to write on Yoga's fantastic beneficial effects on Depression and other psycho-somatic illnesses. Hence, greatly taken up with your information.
    Yes, sure we will keep in touch. I will go through your blog in detail to see what books you have published.
    Are you Delhi based?

  7. Thanks Sahaas. Very informative. I would also like to share a link I recently discovered while researching this very topic:!topic/lispp/5wG6tRcd3ho

    Here in the link - it is mentioned that with every application, the applicant is allotted 10 ISBNs. With this, an author can then expand into other forms as well (if they desire) - hardbound, iBooks etc. as their sales increase. I'll have to test it myself and see 1 or 10 ISBN numbers are indeed allotted? When you applied, how many were you allotted? Thanks again.


  8. Saurabh,
    I did have a look at the site sent by you and it is quite informative.
    In India, ISBNs are issued in two ways. Publishing companies get them, in bulk (10 or more?) before the books and the authors are decided. The form is somewhat more complex. These are allotted in a two stage process; first to the publishing agency which in turn allots these ISBNs to individual books, then goes back to the ISBN agency with the relevant details.
    The second method is a single step process meant for the authors themselves who are self-publishing, here the form asks the type of book viz. paperback, ebook and hardbound. This is a new method introduced quite recently.
    I applied for two - paperback and ebook, and I got two ISBNs.
    Good luck.

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