ISBNs no longer needed for low-content books on KDP

Low-content books such as notebooks, journals and planners can now be published through Kindle Direct Publishing without an ISBN.

A free KDP ISBN will no longer be offered for low-content books, so the choice is to publish without an ISBN or to buy your own.

Amazon defines a low-content book as having minimal or no content on the interior pages, with the pages generally repetitive and designed to be filled in by the user. Common examples include notebooks, planners, journals, and similar works.

This does not typically include activity or puzzle books or coloring books, which generally do not feature repetitive content on each page.

When you set up a low-content book on your KDP Bookshelf you can now check a box under the Categories section on the Product Details page to classify it as a low-content book, which will provide you with the new ISBN options.

Low-content books that are already published and have a free KDP ISBN can continue using that ISBN, even if you make changes to your book.

If you use your own ISBN, you can upload a cover with or without a barcode. If you choose the option Publish without an ISBN, or decide not to provide your own barcode, KDP will automatically place a barcode on your back cover.

The barcode will be placed in a 2 ins (50.8 mm) by 1.2 ins (30.5 mm) white box in the lower right-hand corner of the book’s back cover. Images or text on this part of the cover will be covered by the barcode during printing.

You cannot change your ISBN selection after you have published your book. If you need to change your ISBN selection after publishing your book, you will have to unpublish your book from your KDP Bookshelf, and then republish it.

Expanded Distribution is not supported for low-content books, regardless of the ISBN option you select.

The Look Inside feature is not supported for low-content books published without an ISBN. If you’d like to activate this feature for your book, you should buy your own ISBN.

Transparency codes are not available for low-content books that are published without an ISBN.

How to get an ISBN

If you really want to get an ISBN for your low-content books, you will need to buy some from Bowker, which is the supplier in the US, or your local ISBN agency in other countries. Incredibly, if you only want one ISBN it will set you back $125 in the US, while 10 ISBNs will cost $295 and 100 cost $575.

Bowker also points out that each format of your book requires its own ISBN and that most books average two to three ISBNs to accommodate all published formats (presumably, hardcover, softcover and ebook). You are, of course, unlikely to need more than one with low-content books which generally publish only in one print format.

Bowker is also the ISBN supplier in Australia where a single ISBN costs AUD44, 10 are priced at AUD88, and 100 are AUD480.

In the UK, Nielsen is the ISBN supplier and one ISBN costs £89, 10 cost £164, and 100 are £369.

If you live in Canada then you’re in luck as those enlightened folks offer free ISBNs, which is the way it should be everywhere else too.

However, it seems that notebooks may not even qualify for an ISBN as Canada has a list of items that are not eligible for ISBNs, including coloring books (without text) and office supplies and stationery, such as diaries.

Don’t all rush to apply for an ISBN account in Canada as you’re only eligible if you are located in the country. You must get ISBNs only from the country in which you reside.

An ISBN is valid internationally and you can use the same ISBN in each country where you want to sell your books.