Should Authors Use the Free KDP ISBN or Get Their Own?

should authors use the free KDP ISBN|KDP ISBN|should authors use the free KDP ISBN

How does the free KDP ISBN stack up against having your own ISBN?
Let’s compare the two and find out!

We’re often asked, ‘should authors use the free KDP ISBN or get their own?’ It’s a fair question that any new author just entering the self-publishing world would want to know the answer to.

When you first self-publish your first book, it can be quite a steep learning curve. Because of this, Amazon’s KDP attempted to make it as easy as possible. However, they also want authors to use their platform exclusively over other book platforms. One of the ways they do this is by providing authors that self-publish on Amazon with a free ISBN.

They’ll then register your book with Bowker using this ISBN, which will be listed in the register as ‘self-published.’ However, this free ISBN can only be used to self-publish your book on Amazon. You can’t then self-publish your book on other platforms such as IngramSpark or Smashwords.

Before we answer should authors use the free KDP ISBN, let’s look at what an ISBN is.

What Is An ISBN?

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that identifies each addition of your manuscript and is used by various people, including booksellers, publishers, and librarians. It’s 100% unique to your book.

For Canadian authors, whether published or self-published, ISBNs are available for free via Libraries and Archives Canada. However, you need to register an account with Libraries and Archives Canada before obtaining your ISBN, so make sure you don’t leave it too late if you’re working to a publishing deadline.

If you live in the USA or you are an American author, you can purchase your ISBN from Bowker Identifier Services.

You need one ISBN per format, so your ebook, paperback, hardcover, or audiobook will all require an individual ISBN. So, if you’re getting ISBNs, ensure you get enough for each format. If you want to learn more about ISBNs, check out our complete guide to ISBNs article, Do I Need an ISBN for My Book In Canada?

Comparing the Free ISBN from KDP to Getting your own ISBN

Below you’ll be able to see the difference between using the free ISBN provided by Amazon KDP and getting your own ISBN.


To learn more about the Amazon KDP ISBN, check out this ISBN help topic by KDP.

Should Authors Use the Free KDP ISBN or Get Their Own? – Conclusion

As you can see from the table above, using your own ISBN will give you a lot more freedom to self-publish your books on other platforms. However, it can be expensive, depending on where you live.

If you have any questions about self-publishing or ISBNs, please don’t hesitate to reach out and contact us at Indie Publishing Group. Our friendly and professional team is here to make your dream of publishing your book a reality.

What’s your experience been using the free Amazon KDP ISBN? We’d love to hear from you, and your advice could help a new author avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes.


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