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Durham University

University Library

How to obtain an ISBN or ISSN

If you are looking to publish a monograph, working paper, report or other 'monographical' output, you can find information here about how to register it with an ISBN (international Standard Book Number), and if part of a series, how to register the series with an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number).

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique 13 digit number, assigned to a book or similar publication. It uniquely identifies the specific publication, edition, format and publisher of that output.

  • Example: 978-0-907552-10-9

There is no legal requirement for a book to have an ISBN. It is primarily to allow for more efficient marketing, dissemination and identification of outputs by universities, authors, libraries, booksellers, wholesalers and distributors. It allows others to identify the specific ‘version’ of that publication, which potentially might be ambiguous via a citation reliant upon author/title/publication date only.

It helps with cataloguing and if you wish to sell or distribute a publication through major bookselling chains or internet booksellers, you will usually be required to have an ISBN.

An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is a unique 8 digit number, assigned to a serial publication (including newspapers, journals, conference proceedings and working papers).

  • Example: 1758-5880 (Print), 1758-5899 (Online)

It uniquely identifies that series (along with the respective format, eg print or digital) – not individual issues within it. The ISSN is especially helpful in distinguishing between serials with the same or similar titles, and it can also help to accurately identify and link publications which may have changed title or publishers one or more times. The ISSN, alongside the DOI (Digital Object Identifier) and other unique identifiers is increasingly useful in allowing the sharing and re-use of accurate publication data between systems, for example within and between publishers, research funders and research organisations.

Generally, if you can supply the ISBN or ISSN for an item you are requesting, it will help to speed up the processing of your request.

Online form to request an ISBN.

The University Library holds a number of ISBNs which can be used for publications by departments, centres and institutes under a ‘Durham University’ imprint. It is possible to use these to obtain an ISBN before publication so that it can be printed on the back of the title-page and quoted in advertising literature.

If you would like to claim an ISBN from those held by the University Library, there is no charge for this service. Please complete the online form and we will register this with the UK ISBN agency and provide you with the ISBN(s) required.

If you have any queries about information requested on the form, or about registering an ISBN, please contact James Bisset.

Some freely accessible examples of existing Durham publications can be seen below.

  • Rocha Mazzuchelli, D. S. and Batista Araujo e Oliveira, J. and Costa, M. (2015) 'Trabalhando com crianças pequenas desatentas, hiperativas e impulsivas em sala. Um guia para educadores.', Other. Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), Durham.
  • Lackner, H. (2016) Understanding the Yemeni crisis: The transformation of tribal roles in recent decades (Sir William Luce Papers (17))

If you want to self-publish outside the University, then you will need to get your own ISBNs. In the UK Nielsen Books handles all applications for new ISBNS.

You will need to register your publisher details with them, and then purchase either a single or bulk purchase of ISBNs. A single ISBN currently costs £89.00 [last revised August 2019].

ISSN UK Centre ISSN Application form (online)

Any qualifying serial publication can get an ISSN, for free, by registering the series with the ISSN UK Centre, which forms part of the British Library.

A qualifying serial publication is any "continuing resource in any medium, issued in a succession of discrete parts [and having a common title], usually bearing numbering, that has no predetermined conclusion. Examples of serials include journals, magazines, electronic journals, ongoing directories, annual reports, newspapers, and monographic series."

To apply for an ISSN, complete the ISSN UK Centre’s online form. The basic information required is:

  • Proposed title (working titles / project titles are not sufficient);
  • Frequency of publication;
  • Proposed start date (month / year);
  • Publisher name and address.

If your serial is already being published, you will need to send a pdf copy of the completed form along with a recent issue of the serial, to:

ISSN UK Centre
The British Library
Boston Spa
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ

If you have any queries about information requested on the form, or about registering an ISSN for a Durham published serial, please contact James Bisset.

Your Academic Liaison Librarian

James Bisset

Senior Manager
Library Research Services

0191 334 1589

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