What are ISBNs/ISSNs?

ISBNs/ISSNs are used as unique identifiers for publications including different editions and formats eg electronic version. They also assist in identifying the correct publication when titles of different publications are similar.

ISBNs (International Standard Book Numbers) are generally used for books or one-off publications. ISSNs (International Standard Serial Numbers) are used for periodical publications such as magazines and annual reports.

For example, when a library catalogues a publication it includes the ISBN/ISSN along with other publication identifiers such as the title, author, publisher, subject etc. The ISBN/ISSN provides another field to search by.

ISBNs/ISSNs are also used by book shops to search for the correct edition/format when they order new stock or for a customer who has asked for a particular title and format (eg hardcover, paperback, eBook, audiobook, large print).

What publications need to have an ISBN/ISSN?

It is recommended that you use an ISBN/ISSN on major publications that must be deposited in the National eDeposit (NED) service to fulfil legal deposit requirements under the Libraries Act 1984.

What is classed as a major publication?

  • annual reports;
  • publications about core business and major products and services;
  • reports that add to or change the agency’s policies or procedures; and
  • publications that include significant new information or original research.

What is not classed as a major publication?

Ephemeral publications such as:

  • forms;
  • procedural guidelines;
  • fact sheets;
  • advertising materials;
  • brochures;
  • calendars; and
  • newsletters.

How do I get an ISBN/ISSN for my publication?

Publishers buy a set of ISBNs or ISSNs from Thorpe-Bowker (a publishing company that has been contracted by the National Library of Australia). It takes about 10 days to get an ISBN and charges apply.

The library or communications/marketing unit in your department may be able to provide advice and guidance about ISBNs and ISSNs. The library is often the owner of ISBNs that can be allocated to a publication.