ISBNs, ISSNs and Legal Deposit

If you or your Institute publishes a book, journal or monograph series in print or online, you may want to consider the following:

  • getting an ISBN (for books and other one-off publications)
  • getting an ISSN for journals or series
  • legal deposit (a legal requirement on every publication in the UK & Ireland)
  • Getting a DOI (digital Object Identifier) for a digital work.

    If you are publishing a dataset through PURE and the research portal, a DOI will be assigned to the record as part of the validation process.

    If you would like a DOI assigned to any other digital outputs please contact and we’ll work through the process with you


There is no legal requirement for a book to have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) but it helps with cataloguing and if you wish to sell your book through major bookselling chains, or internet booksellers, they will require you to have an ISBN.

Some types of publication are not eligible for an ISBN. 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 of people, e.g. an educational course book only available to those registered as students on the course.

It is possible to obtain an ISBN before publication so that it can be printed on 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.

How to apply for an ISBN

The Aberystwyth University Library has ISBNs which can be used for publications by departments and institutes within the University.  Contact the Library Materials Acquisitions department ( x2402) who will provide the ISBN.

If you want to self-publish outside 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.

How an ISBN is made up

Each publisher is allocated a number, preceded by a product code of either 978 or 979, and by 0- or 1- indicating the English language countries. After the publisher's number comes that of the individual book, and the fourth and final section of the number is a check digit for computer purposes.

Therefore an Aberystwyth University ISBN 978-0-9926940-0-5 indicates:

978- product code used for books
0- an English language publisher
9926940- Aberystwyth University
0- identifier for specific title
5 check digit


The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an internationally accepted code which identifies the title of serial publications and is provided free of charge. 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 "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. This copy will be passed through to the Legal Deposit Office and subsequent issues can be sent directly to them.

ISSN UK Centre
The British Library
Boston Spa, Wetherby
West Yorkshire
LS23 7BQ
Tel: 01937 546959

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 asked. Publishers should send one copy of their publication to:

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

In addition the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003 and the Irish Copyright Act 1963 entitle the Bodleian Library in 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