Why Is There a Monopoly on ISBN’s & Why Are US Authors Being Gouged?


As an American author I soon discovered that it would be in my best interest to publish my paperbacks using an ISBN that is my personal imprint (publishing company). Doing so allows you control over your own work, instead of having someone else listed as the publisher, such as Createspace or Lulu or Ingram Sparks.

Createspace used to offer indie authors the option to use their own imprint for $10. I exercised that option for several years. But last week, I logged onto the site and discovered that they had removed that option without any warning, forcing us to either:

  1. Use their free ISBN option which lists them as the publisher
  2. Spend $99 for one (1) ISBN from Bowker
  3. List your purchased ISBN (which is the same as 2)

I am convinced that authors need ISBNs for physical books, but unfortunately, we have only one option, to buy from Bowker. Yes, if you do a google search you will see ads for buying ISBNs for $18.95. But upon closer inspection, the company that sells the ISBN will be listed as the publisher, not you or your imprint.

In 1996 I put up my very first website. I bought a book on html learned how on my own. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but I was proud of it, nonetheless. I purchased the domain name for $120. That was when only one company was selling domains, just like when AT&T was the only phone company before deregulation. But now, you can catch a sale at GoDaddy and buy a domain for $0.99.

So why is there a monopoly on ISBNs? Why is only one company able to sell them legitimately? That allows them to set any price they like. Indie authors usually have other jobs, as writing rarely covers the bills… so why are we gouged with this outrageous fee in 2016?

There are MANY countries, such as Canada, Bermuda, Haiti that charge ZERO for ISBNs. So why, as American authors, are we charged $125 per ISBN? I think it’s outrageous.

What do you think? Comments encouraged.