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Frequently Asked Questions on ISBN

1. What is an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)?
An ISBN is a 13 – digit number that identifies a book for purposes of commerce and supply.
The ISBN is a unique international identifier for monographic (book) publications. It is a 13 – digit number e.g. 978-0-306-40615-0.

2. What are the advantages of ISBN?

  • Global ordering and distribution of books is mainly executed by ISBN.
  • Compilation and updating of book trade directories and bibliographic databases, such as cataloguing of books-in-print.
  • It is needed for the running of electronic point of sale systems in bookshops.

3. Which Materials should have ISBN?

  • Monograph (books)
  • E-publications

4. Where to put the ISBN?
The thirteen (13) digit ISBN number is divided into five parts separated clearly by hyphens or spaces e.g. 978-0-356-42615-0. This number should be printed on

  • Verso each publication title page.
  • Base of the title page
  • Base of the spine
  • The back of the cover in nine-point or larger
  • The back of the dust-jacket and on the back of any other protective.

5. Do books need an ISBN if they are not going to be sold?
It is desirable that ALL books are identified by ISBNs.

6. Does a change of format require a new ISBN?
Yes, different formats need different ISBNs.

7. I am revising a book. Does it require a new ISBN?
A significant change of text requires a new ISBN. If revisions have been made it should state on the verso of the title page that the book is a revised edition and the new ISBN should be printed there.

8. Does a reprint without change of text or binding require a new ISBN?
No, not if there is no change of text, format, or building that would justify a new ISBN.

9. How are ISBNs allocated to multi-format/multi-volume works?
An ISBN must be allocated to the whole set of volumes of a multi-volume work, as well as individual volumes of the set.

10. Do I need a new ISBN when I am reprinting a book with a new title?
Yes, a new title requires a new ISBN.

11. I am publishing a book with another Publisher. Whose ISBN should appear on the book?
In the case of a joint publication, an ISBN is assigned by the publisher in charge of distribution.

12. I am not a Publisher – can I still obtain an ISBN?
Yes, a Publisher is a group, organization, company or individual who is responsible for originating the product of a publication and also bears the cost/financial risk.

13. What are the Publishers’ obligations?

  • Maintaining a register of ISBN that has been assigned to published and forth coming books. This register should be kept in numerical sequence showing ISBN, author, title, edition statements etc.
  • Forwarding a list of publications with their used ISBN to the National Agency before asking for new assignment of ISBN.
  • Delivering with one month of publication at his own expense to the National Library of Nigeria, three (3) copies of the book.

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