I’m assuming that any Indies reading this post will have gone through the same frustrations that I did, so I’ll jump straight into the how-to part of the post. Once that’s done, I’ll talk about barcodes in general and discuss why you might want one. Let’s do it!
There are only TWO things you need to create your own, free barcode:
- an ISBN for your book
- a free online barcode generator
In Canada you can get an ISBN for free. In the US and Australia, you can buy an ISBN from a company called Bowker. The web address for the Australian company is:
If you want to know where to buy an ISBN for your own country, go to the website of the International ISBN Agency:
You should be looking at a screen like this:
Click the small down arrow [circled in red] to display a drop down list of countries. Scroll down to your country and click it. You should now see a detailed contact screen for the ISBN agency in your country. In the example shown below, I clicked on ‘United Kingdom and Ireland’:
Once you have your ISBN, you can go to the following website to use the free, barcode generator [you do not have to register first]:
On the Home page, select ‘Free ISBN-13 Bookland Barcode Generator’ as shown below:
You should now be looking at a page like this:
- From the top of the page, type in your 13 digit ISBN, including the hyphens [or cut and paste it in].
- Next, type 90000 in the Price textbox. This ensures that the scanner checks the bookshop’s own database for pricing.
- Type your email address, twice.
- Click inside the ‘Consent to email’ checkbox.
- Leave the DPI at the default .
- Now you have a choice of getting the barcode as a PDF file or as a PNG file. I find the PNG file easier to work with but the choice is yours. Either way you’ll end up with a picture of the barcode that’s been generated from your ISBN.
- Save the barcode to your computer.
- Insert the barcode into the back page of your book cover graphic.
Now for some of the explanatory stuff. Firstly, there are basically two kinds of barcodes [gross over simplification but work with me]. The first is for ‘things’ such as soap, toothpaste, butter etc. To get barcodes for these products, you have to register with GS1. This process is quite involved, but luckily it does not apply to books. 🙂
Books are covered by a completely different barcode that requires only an ISBN and a second, smaller code that simply tells the bookshop scanner where to look for the pricing information. If you want to get technical about it, this is a Bookland EAN-13 + 5-digit add-on type barcode. The one I created for my print book of Vokhtah looks like this:
The ISBN is displayed [in writing] twice, once at the top and once at the bottom. The 90000 barcode is added to the right of the main barcode.
Now, why would you need a barcode?
If you are using Print-On-Demand [POD] via CreateSpace or Amazon KDP, you will not have to worry about a barcode at all. If you get a free ISBN from either company, they will automatically generate a barcode from that ISBN and insert it into the cover for you. If you use your own, private ISBN, CreateSpace and Amazon KDP will also generate a barcode and insert it into the cover for you. But. Not all POD printers provide free ISBNs or barcodes, so if your chosen printer says you have to provide your own barcode, you now know how to do it…for FREE! Well, except for the ISBN but you have to pay for that anyway. 🙂