ISBN Registration

ISBN registration

Do I need to buy ISBNs?

You can and should buy ISBNs for the following products:

  • Printed books
  • Journals published no more than once a year
  • Electronic products that have a textual or instructional content (for example audio-books, E-books )
  • Educational or instructional films and videos

You can not buy ISBNs for the following products:

  • Journals and periodicals
  • Websites
  • Non-text based publications (such as art prints without titles)
  • Music Scores
  • Documentary videos
  • Computer games

There is no legal requirement to get an ISBN in the UK or US. But most retailers will refuse to stock your publications, if you do not buy ISBNs. Most major bookselling chains and internet retailers require ISBNs to assist with their sales, distribution and ordering systems. If you are an author, your publishers will be responsible for purchasing ISBNs. The publisher is the person who takes the financial risk if a book does not sell. For further information concerning buying an ISBN, you can contact the Nielson UK ISBN Agency (Link) or Bowker US Identifier Services (Link).

I am Self-Publishing, Do I need to buy ISBNs?

If you are interested in self-publishing your book, then you will be taking the financial risk for the transaction. There is no legal requirement to have an ISBN in the UK or US. But if you wish to sell your book through book shops and online retailers, you will most often need to apply for an ISBN. You could consider publishing through agencies, such as Create Space (Link). Create Space provide free ISBNs and free distribution on Amazon and Kindle. They also provide a number of free tools to help you format your book, such as a cover creator, and book interior formatting software. Other agencies, which can help you self-publish, include Books on Demand (Link).


How to get an ISBN in the UK

You can purchase ISBN numbers from the Nielson UK ISBN Agency. The Nieslon UK ISBN Agency is responsible for issuing ISBN numbers in the UK and Ireland. You cannot buy an individual ISBN number from Nielson UK ISBN agency. The minimum number of ISBNs that you can purchase is 10.

How Much Does it Cost in the UK?

If you are a new publisher, it will cost you £126 for the first ten ISBNs. This price includes ISBN registration. It will take ten working days from the receipt of your ISBN application, to process your order. If you are in a hurry, you can pay an extra £66 for the fast track service, which reduces the time from ten to three days. Publishers who have already registered with Nielson are charged £72 for ten ISBNs. It is cheaper to buy a larger amount of ISBNs. The fee for 100 ISBNs is £240, and it is £720 for 1000 ISBNs.

How to fill out an ISBN Application Form in the UK

The Nielson Agency recommend that you purchase enough ISBNs to cover the number of books that you wish to publish over the next two to three years. Some publishers do not use ISBNS when they are first starting out. It is possible to apply for ISBNs, for books that have been already published. You can find the application form on their website.

You will need to submit copies of the draft title and title page verso of the first publication which requires an ISBN. The title page verso must display a publisher statement. You will also need to provide the price of the first publication and details of the binding format (eg. Paperback, hardback).

The Nielson agency will automatically add your publisher details to the Publishers International ISBN directory and the Nielson Book’s Publishers Database. They also offer other services such as the Nielson Book Data Information Service and Nielson Book Net.


What about the US?

The company responsible for the registration of ISBN numbers in the US is „Bowker Identifier Services“ (Link). It is the only official source of ISBNs in the United States and its territories. The U.S. ISBN Agency can only assign ISBNs to publishers located in the United States and its territories.

How to Buy an ISBN in the US

You can easily buy ISBNs online if you are an US resident.
Just click on this link to buy your ISBN:

This document explains the basics of how ISBN Numbers are issued in the US:

Once you have purchased your ISBN you will need to register your ISBN numbers and your publications. This user guide will take you through all the steps:

Cost of ISBN in the US

It is possible to buy one ISBN number in the US. You cannot buy one ISBN from the Nielson UK Agency.

  • Single ISBN: $125.00
  • 10 ISBNs: $250.00
  • 100 ISBNs: $575.00
  • 1,000 ISBNs: $1,000.00

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