Tuesday, July 11, 2023

The Perils of Accepting a Free ISBN from KDP

The Perils of Accepting a Free ISBN from KDP


Self-publishing has provided authors with unprecedented opportunities to bring their literary creations to the world. Platforms like Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offer convenient tools and services to assist authors in the publishing process. One such service is the option to obtain a free ISBN (International Standard Book Number) for your book. While it may seem like an attractive offer, there are important reasons why accepting a free ISBN from KDP may not be in your best interest as an author. In this blog post, we will delve into the perils of accepting a free ISBN from KDP and explore why it may be worth considering other options.

Limited Distribution Options:

By accepting a free ISBN from KDP, you are essentially tying your book to Amazon's ecosystem. While Amazon is undoubtedly a dominant force in the book market, limiting your book's distribution exclusively to Amazon may restrict your reach and potential audience. If you plan to explore other sales channels, such as physical bookstores, libraries, or other online retailers, having a free ISBN from KDP can pose challenges as it is specific to Amazon's platform and they.

Lack of Ownership and Control:

When you accept a free ISBN from KDP, Amazon becomes the listed publisher of your book. This can have implications regarding the ownership and control of your work. It is important to remember that the ISBN serves as a unique identifier for your book, allowing you to maintain control and authority over your publication. By relinquishing this control to Amazon, you may face limitations in making changes, switching distributors, or rebranding your book in the future.

Professional Perception:

Perception plays a significant role in the publishing industry. While self-publishing has gained widespread acceptance, having a publisher name like Amazon listed in your book's metadata can impact how your work is perceived. Some readers, literary agents, and industry professionals may associate self-published works with lower quality or lack of professional editing and design. By accepting a free ISBN from KDP, you inadvertently contribute to this perception, potentially diminishing the chances of your book being taken seriously within the industry.

Compatibility with Industry Standards:

ISBNs serve as a vital part of the book industry's infrastructure, facilitating tracking, distribution, and sales data analysis. However, free ISBNs from KDP may not conform to certain industry standards. For instance, they may not be recognized by certain libraries, bookstores, or other distribution channels. This can create barriers when it comes to reaching a broader market or securing deals for book placement in physical stores or libraries.

Long-Term Considerations:

Publishing a book is a long-term investment. It is important to consider the future implications of the decisions you make during the publishing process. By accepting a free ISBN from KDP, you may limit your options for future publishing endeavors. If you plan to publish subsequent books, build your author brand, or explore traditional publishing routes, having a unique ISBN for each of your works will provide greater flexibility and control over your career trajectory.


While the allure of a free ISBN from KDP may initially seem appealing, it is crucial for authors to carefully evaluate the potential drawbacks. The limitations in distribution options, ownership, professional perception, compatibility with industry standards, and long-term considerations can significantly impact an author's publishing journey and overall success. Exploring alternative options for obtaining an ISBN, such as purchasing one from a reputable ISBN agency, can provide authors with greater flexibility, control, and opportunities in the dynamic world of publishing. Remember, investing in your book's future is an investment in your own literary aspirations.