It is not yet clear to me whether an author would ever have cause to obtain his/her own ISBN, but I did the research anyway. I published my first novel, Death in the Forsythia, using a self-publishing company. The self-publishing company secured both an ISBN and bar code for my novel.
Now that I'm on the verge of publishing my second novel, Grounds for Death, I'm investigating alternatives. Interestingly, e-books do not seem to need an ISBN, so publishing your work is as simple as providing the book seller with your completed work (ie Amazon.com. I have yet to figure out how this works with Chapters.ca).
The link to finding the ISBN issuing organization in your geographic region is here.
If anyone has done further research to find out how to get a bar code for the back of a tree-book, or whether there is no situation in which an author must obtain one on his/her own, I would like to hear about it.
If anyone knows how an author can get a e-book/tree-book novel listed with Chapters, B&N and Borders, please share.