How to Obtain an ISBN in the UK

Updated July 01, 2018

An ISBN, or International Standard Book Number, is a unique identifier assigned to each and every book. Publishers use them to keep track of inventory, warehouses use them for sorting and booksellers use them for ordering. The current system uses 13 numbers, divided into five parts separated by spaces or hyphens. The groups of numbers identify publishers and book data. UK ISBNs are available only to publishers in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland. Publishers are not required to create ISBNs for their books, but having them makes books more accessible.

Complete the application form available from the UK ISBN Agency and the Nielsen BookData database form; obtain both from the same agency. Include the required information, like page samples.

Check the application carefully for legibility, accuracy and completeness. Poorly completed forms slow the application process.

Enclose the appropriate payment by Visa, MasterCard, check or Maestro. Enclose an additional fee for expedited handling. Current fees are located on the Agency's website.

Indicate which services you are ordering. They include publisher registration, assignment of an ISBN prefix and lists of ISBNs. ISBNs come in blocks of 10, 100 and 1000. Additional blocks are available for an additional fee.

Mail, fax or e-mail the completed application to the agency.

Await an e-mail from the agency containing the ISBNs that have been assigned to you. If you prefer to have your ISBNs mailed to you, enclose the extra fee in your application.


ISBNs are generally assigned within 10 working days.

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About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.