The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a short identifier that uniquely identifies any monographic title published internationally. The ISBN accompanies the publisher’s product from production through distribution to sale. Therefore, it contributes considerably to the rationalisation of the book distribution systems. The introduction of the ISBN led to the simplification of ordering, stock control, accounting, and export procedures in many branches of the book industry.



The introduction of the ISBN system serves the flow and documentation of bibliographic information and provides economic bibliographic control of the regional book production. Other benefits include:

  • The ISBN facilitates ordering, acquisition, cataloguing, and circulation procedures in libraries and documentation centres, across political border
  • Allows different product forms and editions of a book, whether printed or digital, to be clearly differentiated
  • The ISBN facilitates compilation and updating of book-trade directories and bibliographic databases, such as catalogues of books-in-print.
  • Facilitates the fast and efficient ordering and distribution of books using the ISBN
  • The ISBN is machine-readable in the form of a 13-digit EAN-13 bar code. This is fast and avoids mistakes

Eligible Products

Some examples of publishers’ products to which an ISBN shall be assigned are:

  • Printed books and pamphlets
  • Braille publications
  • Publications which are not intended by the publisher to be regularly updated or continued indefinitely
  • Individual articles 1 or issues of a particular continuing resource (but not the continuing resource in its entirety)
  • Maps i Educational/instructional films, videos and transparencies
  • Audio books on cassettes or CD or DVD (talking books)
  • Electronic publications either on physical carriers (such as machine-readable tapes, diskettes, CD-Roms) or on the Internet
  • Digitised copies of print monographic publications
  • Microform publications i Educational or instructional software
  • Mixed media publications (where the principal constituent is text-based)

Ineligible products

Some examples of products that do not qualify for ISBN are:

  • Continuing resources treated in their entirety as bibliographic entities (individual issues may qualify for ISBNs)
  • Abstract entities such as textual works and other abstract creations of intellectual or artistic content
  • Printed or digital materials that are intended for marketing or promotional purposes only such as advertising matter, widgets and the like
  • Printed music
  • Art prints and art folders without title page and text
  • Personal documents (such as a digital curriculum vitae or personal profile)
  • Greetings cards
  • Music sound recordings
  • Software, films, videos, DVDs or transparencies that are intended for any purpose other than educational or instructional
  • Digital bulletin boards
  • Emails and other digital correspondence
  • Games
  • Customized or personalised books not intended for general availability
  • License key vouchers to access digital monographic publications on the Internet


The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN), ISO 3297, is the standard international identifier for serial publications (i.e. publications that are issued over time with no predetermined conclusion). Such publications are usually issued in successive or integrating issues that generally have numerical and/or chronological designations. Typical examples include serials such as newspapers, periodicals, journals, magazines, etc., and ongoing integrating resources such as loose-leaf publications that are continually updated.

The ISSN is administered by the ISSN International Centre:


ISSN International Centre

45 rue de Turbigo

75003 Paris, France

Tel:     (+33) 1 44 88 22 20

Fax:    (+33) 1 40 26 32 43

Emailissnic@issn.org; secretariat@issn.org

URL:   http://www.issn.org



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