What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a unique 13-digit numeric identifier for books, much like an ID number. While you may find books with the same title name, no two books will have the same ISBN.

An ISBN is assigned to each edition and format of a book. This means that your print edition will have a different ISBN to your ebook edition. And a Kindle ebook will have a different ISBN to an ePub or PDF ebook. A revised edition will also have a different ISBN to the original edition. ISBNs help consumers, retailers, distributors and libraries identify the correct edition and format of the book when ordering it.

Must all books have an ISBN?

No – only books that are being sold to the general public through bookstores, retailers, libraries and distribution warehouses require one. Books published for private distribution or personal interest (e.g. family, business clients, club, church members) do not need an ISBN.

NOTE: If you apply for an ISBN you will be required, by law, to submit one copy of your book free of charge to each of the five Legal Depositories (National Libraries) once it has been published.

Do magazines and newspapers use an ISBN?

No. Any publication that is serial in nature (has different issues) will have an ISSN. An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number), the issuing of which is controlled by an international ISSN body. If you are publishing a magazine, quarterly journal, annual directory, or any other publication that has multiple issues, email us to order your ISSN.

Where can I obtain an ISBN for my book?

QUICKFOX PUBLISHING CLIENTS: You will automatically receive an ISBN for each book format. We make application on your behalf, generate the relevant barcodes, and submit copies of your book to the legal depositories. We also provide free ISBN advice. However, you are also most welcome to obtain your own ISBN.

OTHER AUTHORS: If you are an author looking to publish yourself or through another provider, you can contact the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) to obtain your ISBN. Once you have your ISBN, we will gladly generate a barcode for you.

What is a barcode and do I need one?

Barcodes are used at point-of-sale for quick retrieval of your book information such as name, product code and price. It also helps the distribution chain effectively manage the products in their care. A barcode can only be generated once you have an ISBN number.

If you intend selling your book through bookstores, online stores and libraries, your book will need a barcode. All distribution warehouses also require one.

If you are bypassing the distribution chain by selling your book privately, or if you are publishing an ebook, then a barcode is not necessary. Selling through some informal channels may require that you have one, so it’s best to check this beforehand, especially if you are printing large quantities of your book. Smaller quantities are less problematic: should you later require a barcode for your book, you can apply barcode stickers to the back cover.

How much does a barcode cost?

The cost for a single barcode (ISBN or EAN) is R250. Discounted pricing is offered on bulk barcode orders.

Ordering a barcode

Once you have an ISBN number, you can order your barcode online here. Your barcode will be emailed to you within 24–48 hours from date of application and proof of payment.

We can supply a barcode to anyone with an ISBN number, regardless of the country in which the book is being published. However, you must apply for your ISBN in the country of publication or in which you will be conducting your publishing operations.

NOTE: We also supply barcodes for 13-digit EAN. An EAN is used on products that are NOT books (e.g. music CDs, DVDs, games)