My book now has an ISBN, and it is beginning to feel real.
ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is the universally accepted number that is used by the book industry worldwide to identify any individual book. If you want to sell a physical book in bookshops the chances are that a shop will not agree to sell your book if it does not have an ISBN.
In Britain and Ireland it seems that the only source of ISBNs is the Nielsen agency. You can buy individual numbers from some companies that help authors with self-publishing, but if you want your own number you have to go directly to Nielsen.
And it is important to realize that these numbers are not free. In fact they are not cheap at all. You can buy one number, but that costs £99 (Nielsen are a British company and so charge in Sterling). They also sell a pack of ten numbers for £149.
I had been considering getting the single ISBN, as I wasn’t sure if I was going to publish anything else in the future and was trying to save money. But then I found out that an ISBN is only for a particular edition of a book and that if you want to publish an e-book, as I intend to do, you need a separate ISBN. In fact, I will need at least three in total, one for the printed version, one for an e-book for iBooks, and one for my Amazon e-book.
So I got the ten. It is quite a simple process, you fill out a form, email it to Nielsen, pay them and they give you your numbers. They got back to me within about three days, though they say it can take up to ten working days. So A Year in Lisbon now has a unique identifying number, one that will distinguish it from every other book published throughout history. It is 978-0-9954832-0-0. It is an unremarkable collection of digits, but it is my unremarkable collection of digits, and that is something.
Now all I have to do is print the thing.