Bowker: A Monopoly on Stifling Free Speech

by: Reagen Dandridge Desilets

One of many examples of how the government can destroy and contain creativity and lively cultural interaction is by granting a monopoly to one company for a high demand product in an industry where people are bursting at the seams to be heard. As an emerging author and a consultant and publisher for other authors, this became starkly real for me when looking to acquire International Standard Book Numbers, also known as ISBNs, for my books and others looking to publish.
Bowker, the only place that is allowed to sell and maintain ISBNs, has a monopoly that stifles culture and creativity and, whether intended or not, censors. Yes, you can buy ISBNs when you self publish from where ever you are publishing from (like CreateSpace or Smashwords) but they limit where and how you can sell your books. And for those that want to use their own publishing imprint, it costs a small fortune to purchase numbers directly from Bowker. The more you buy, the lower the cost of each number, but if you don’t have enough money to buy in bulk, you’re looking at paying $125 for only one number! There are also your printing costs, costs of illustrating and editing and publishing layout not to mention if you print and release ebooks, the ebooks require a separate ISBN. Is it any wonder that people get discouraged?
I was told by another published author that if I couldn’t afford all that, then I needed to find another business to get into. Well, that made me more determined to press forward. I have an amazing network of friends willing to help, even bartering for what I need or agreeing to profits instead of asking for money up front. This includes the ISBN. I work with self-published author Tarrin P. Lupo, and his publishing imprint name, Porcupine Publications, and self-published author Darryl W. Perry, and his publishing imprint name, Free Patriot Press. Both of them have been able to invest in ISBNs and will offer them at a very low rate. Because of Bowker’s rules, if you do purchase an ISBN from them, you have to use their publishing imprint name, just as an author publishing through a major firm would.
This, I don’t mind, however, I’m still left feeling cheated by a system that can even shut down an entire publishing firm if they publish an author with controversial literature to their credit. This is, obviously, absurd. This is also an infringement of the First Amendment which says:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
As a person that believes wholeheartedly in true freedom and liberty, this is an issue that needs to be heard. Imagine, if there were no limitations to the amount of books and literature you could write and publish, how many people could you reach? I love helping others publish because I feel like I’m not only doing something worthwhile, but something that will change this broken political paradigm this country is stuck in.
So I say write! Everyone, write! You can self publish and if you need help along the way, there are those available, such as me, Tarrin and Darryl, with a large number of affordable resources to do it. Hopefully, someday, we can break these chains and make real again the very First Amendment our forefathers cherished so.

Reagen Dandridge Desilets began consulting with author and activist Tarrin P. Lupo in 2010 and since then has grown. She is currently having her first completed book, a children’s book titled The Adventures of Abbie, illustrated. She has worked with Tarrin on all of his books which can be found at and was recently a judge for LAVA Book Awards at Reagen can be contacted on Facebook at