This guide provides guidance for Durham staff and students who need to register an ISBN for a Durham publication, or register an ISSN for a new serial publication from Durham University;
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.
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.
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 refer to the form below, and provide as much detail about the publication as you can, and we will register this with the UK ISBN agency and provide you with the ISBN(s) required.
Some freely accessible examples of existing Durham publications can be seen below.
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 September 2020].
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).
It uniquely identifies a series (and format, eg print or digital) – not individual issues within it. The ISSN is helpful to distinguish 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 over time. The ISSN, alongside other unique identifiers supports the sharing & re-use of accurate publication data between systems, e.g. 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.
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:
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
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.