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FAQs: Ownership and Re-usage Rights

Can an ISBN be reused?
If one company buys another, can the buyer use the ISBNs or do they have to get new ISBNs?
I got my ISBN from my printer and now I want to make sure it’s in my name, how do I transfer the ISBN?
If more than one publisher or self-publisher is publishing a book, whose ISBN goes on the book?
What can be done when a book is printed with the wrong ISBN?
Can I use one of my friend’s (or relative’s) ISBNs?
If a spouse or family member passes away, can a relative or surviving spouse use the remaining ISBNs?
If an author gets the publishing rights back, does the original publisher’s ISBN remain?
Can a publisher keep the same prefix when ordering additional ISBNs?
Can ISBNs be assigned according to access rights?


Can an ISBN be reused?
No, once a title is published with an ISBN on it, the ISBN can never be used again. Even if a title goes out of print, the ISBN cannot be reused since the title continues to be catalogued by libraries and traded by used booksellers.

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If one company buys another, can the buyer use the ISBNs or do they have to get new ISBNs?
The company being bought can have all its ISBNs transferred to the new owner. If the company is a subdivision or subsidiary of the new company, it can maintain its own unique ISBN prefix. If the company being bought is being demoted to an imprint (a brand) with no legal standing of its own, then the new parent company can use the ISBNs at will for any title it publishes.

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I got my ISBN from my printer and now I want to make sure it’s in my name, how do I transfer the ISBN?
ISBNs cannot be transferred on an individual basis. If a self-publisher wants to be identified as the publisher, the self-publisher must get their own ISBN. A printing company or publisher services company cannot sell, give away or transfer one of their ISBNs to a customer.

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If more than one publisher or self-publisher is publishing a book, whose ISBN goes on the book?
The publisher handling order fulfillment places their ISBN on the book. However, both publishers are entitled to put their ISBNs on the book in the case of a jointly published publication.

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What can be done when a book is printed with the wrong ISBN?
A new, unused ISBN must be assigned to the book, stickers or labels made and placed on the books, and all industry databases updated with the new, correct ISBN.

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Can I use one of my friend’s (or relative’s) ISBNs?
No.

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If a spouse or family member passes away, can a relative or surviving spouse use the remaining ISBNs?
The ISBNs are considered property of the publishing company and all of the ISBNs can be transferred to the new owners, including a family member. The entire block of ISBNs is transferred to the new company owner(s). The block of ISBNs cannot be divided up among family members.

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If an author gets the publishing rights back, does the original publisher’s ISBN remain?
No, they do not have to be assigned, but they can be.

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Can a publisher keep the same prefix when ordering additional ISBNs?
No, once a block of ISBNs has been used up, a new prefix (a new block) is assigned. It is mathematically impossible to add more numbers to a block.

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Can ISBNs be assigned according to access rights?
Yes, if a product needs to be tracked in the supply chain for trading, discovery, and reporting, it can be assigned a separate ISBN. Assessing distinctions between access rights programs for customers requires separate reporting.

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