When Do You Need a New ISBN Number? Second edition, cover changes 

Denis Caron
October 2, 2021

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A common challenges among self-publishers authors that we work with is do I need a new ISBN if I'm... fill in the blank. In this post, we'll cover the most common queries we been asked. 

What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number and is an international identifier that holds vital information about the individual book. The information of this identifier is similar to the imprint page and includes the book title, language, edition, publisher, and technical aspects such as page count, trim size, etc. For more information, please read the complete article called KDP ISBN vs. Own ISBN: Which one is right for you?

Sometimes we need to revisit a book to change the content. Maybe you want to include a prologue or alter the ending a little bit. It could be that you found a new book cover designer that could create magic and improve your sales in doing so. Whatever it is, depending on the scale of your changes, you might need to get a different ISBN.

This article will investigate in what circumstances you would need a new ISBN and will answer the FAQs listed below. For your convenience, you click on the question below and jump straight to the answer.

Or... If you're in even more of a rush, you can use this quick reference chart here:

Do ISBN numbers expire?

When an ISBN is issued for a book, the new ISBN commits itself faithfully to that book until the end of days. ISBNs never expire. Even if you published the most controversial book that ever existed and it's banned from every country in the world, the ISBN would still be relevant.

This ISBN can never expire and can never be reused again. One ISBN can never be 'recycled' or reused for another publication. You could get a new ISBN for the same book, but we will discuss this topic later.

Do ISBN numbers change with editions?

Yes. The have to change therefore you must purchase a new ISBN or Amazon will assign you a new one. If you want to amend your book or eBook to make it more engaging or tweak the title to make it more appealing to potential buyers and improve book sales, you need a new unique ISBN. No problem if you only want to format a few typos or grammatical errors that you became aware of after publishing your manuscript. But as soon as you make any fundamental changes to the structure or story, you need to apply for a new ISBN. These include prologues, epilogues, a new chapter, and appendices.

The same applies if you want to overhaul your book to freshen it up and breathe new life into its marketing and sales. It would be best if you got a unique ISBN for this second edition.

Does a reprint need a new ISBN?

Reprints simply refer to more copies of the same published book printed without any drastic changes to it. If there were minor bug fixes such as typos and grammatical fixes, there is no need for a new ISBN. If there are substantial changes to the story or structure, it is regarded as a new addition and not just a reprint. This is a different story (excuse the pun) altogether.

Do new editions get new ISBN?

Suppose you tidy up your book or eBook a little with typographical corrections or making some punctuation or grammatical changes. In that case, you don't need to apply for a new ISBN.

But if you wish to update the book or eBook a little without making drastic changes, it is considered a new edition. In that case, you might want to call it a 'revised edition' instead of a second edition. Regardless if it is a revised edition or a second edition that entailed significant changes, you would need to apply for a new ISBN.

Can two books have the same ISBN?

ISBNs are unique, and once an ISBN has been assigned, it remains linked to that specific book edition for eternity.

Initially, ISBNs consisted of 10-digit numbers, but that changed in 2007 due to a new policy for variations and editions. Since then, the standard 13-digit ISBN has been used internationally. That means that you might find older publications with a shorter ISBN, but you will never find an old ISBN used again, or two books with the same ISBN. All books have different ISBN numbers.

Do I need a new ISBN for a new cover?

If you want to change the book cover to boost the marketing appeal, it is not necessary to apply for a new ISBN. But there are some exceptions to the rule.

According to the official ISBN agency of the USA, Bowker, if the book cover change has a drastic change on the product, then a separate ISBN should be used. They specifically refer to such drastic changes that could lead to customer complaints.

Does changing the title of a book need a new ISBN?

Definitely, no questions asked. The ISBN is a unique identifier related to the book title, language, edition, publisher, and technical aspects, such as page count, trim size, etc. If you change the book's title, it will become complicated to search for your book's ISBN.

If you are still uncertain whether you need a new ISBN or not, you are welcome to talk with someone that's been there and has the ISBN t-shirt. Check out our premium done-for-you author marketing service.

About the author 

Denis Caron

Denis was a coach long before he ever knew what that was. From his time in the military, to the decade he spent as a 911 ambulance dispatcher, he constantly found himself in leadership and teaching roles (he knows his way around an emergency). And after struggling to self-publish his first book, he knew he could help others do it better.

Currently, Denis is traveling around Europe, exploring WWII sites and sampling all the delightful cuisine the continent has to offer.

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