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Research Identifiers: Books & Articles

Information on public identifiers for research publications and data

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs)

ISBNs are allocated to monographs, reports, conference proceedings and other 'one-off' publications.Some types of publication are not eligible: These include calendars, diaries, entertainment videos, documentaries on video or CD-ROM, computer games, computer application packages, and items which are available only to a restricted group, e.g. an educational course book only available to those registered  on the course.

There is no legal requirement for a book to have an ISBN but it helps with identification and will be required if you wish to sell your book through major bookselling chains, or internet booksellers.

Publications through commercial publishers will automatically have ISBNs assigned by them.

It is possible to obtain an ISBN before publication so that it can be printed on the the back of the title-page and quoted in advertising literature. Getting an ISBN and giving details of the book to Nielsen Bookdata has the great advantage of securing an entry in the weekly publication, The Bookseller, which promotes sales.

Publishing through the University

The University of Southampton Library has ISBNs which can be used for publications by departments and schools within the University of Southampton. Contact the Library Acquisitions department (

Tel 023 8059 3457 (X23457)

Publishing independently

If you want to self-publish outwith the University, then you will need to get your own ISBNs.

In the UK the ISBN Agency handles all applications for new ISBNS.

Any Publisher  publishing a qualifying product for general sale or distribution may apply on payment of a registration fee.

In return the Agency provides 10 ISBNs. Larger allocations may also be purchased, but it is not possible to obtain a single ISBN.

The standard service time is 10 working days from the time the Agency receives a correctly completed application. There is also a Fast-Track service, taking 3 working days, for which an additional charge is made.

Understanding an ISBN

ISBNs have 13 characters, arranged in a specific structure (older ISBNs have only 10 characters) snd divided into five parts, the last four of varying length.

This is constructed as follows:

Prefix (978 or 979)
Registration Group - national, geographic or language grouping
Publisher code
Publication - individual title identifier
Check Digit - mathematically validates the rest of the number


A University of Southampton ISBN 9780854327029 indicates:

978 Product code
0 English language publisher
85432 University of Southampton
702 Identifier for specific title
9 Check digit

International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSNs)

The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an internationally accepted code which identifies the title of serial publications. In the UK the ISSN UK Centre at the British Library is responsible for assigning ISSNs to the serials published.

As with ISBNs it is possible to get an ISSN pre-publication.

Qualifying publications must be " a 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."

The basic information required is:

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

The Centre will also need to receive a copy of the first issue on publication in order to validate their records.

DOIs for Journal Articles

A DOI is a unique alphanumeric string assigned both to identify an article uniquely and to provide a persistent link to its internet location.

DOIs are assigned by the publisher when your article is published and made available electronically. They are typically included on the first page of the electronic article, and on any database landing page for that article.

DOIs are included as part of some bibliographic referencing systems e.g. APA.

Understanding a DOI

A DOI is made up of two parts, a prefix and a suffix, separated by a forward slash. There are no defined limits to the length of either part.

The prefix is assigned to the organisation (the registrant) registering the DOI. It has a directory indicator '10' showing that the whole character set is a DOI , followed by a full stop and then the registrant code. The registrant code may then include subcodes, so the prefix might look something like this:


The suffix is then chosen to be unique to the precediing prefix element. It can be of any length and may have some embedded meaning:


10.1088/0004-6256/136/1/312 (in this case the suffix is the journal with ISSN 0004-6256, and the article concerned is in volume 36, issue 1 and starts on page 312)

Legal Deposit

Publishers and distributors in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have a legal obligation to send one copy of each of their publications to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library within one month of publication under the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 and the Copyright and Related Act, 2000. It is the responsibility of the publisher to send this, without being askedto:

Legal Deposit Office
The British Library
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BY
Tel: 01937 546268
Email: or

The Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 and the Irish Copyright Act 1963 entitle the Bodleian Library, Oxford, Cambridge University Library, the National Library of Scotland, the National Library of Wales, and Trinity College Library, Dublin to a free copy on request. The request is usually made a few months after publication.

Copies may be sent (without necessarily waiting for a demand) to:

Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries
161 Causewayside
Tel: 0131 623 4680
Fax: 0131 623 4681