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Research Identifiers: Books

Information on public identifiers for research publications and data

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 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.

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)

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.

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