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Function & Scope - ISBN

Recognised in more than 160 countries throughout the world, the International Standard Book Number is a clear identifier that is potentially machine-readable. The ISBN denotes a particular monographic publication uniquely and should, therefore, be associated with it from early production stages. An essential instrument in production, distribution, sales analysis and bibliographic data storage systems in the book trade, ISBN is also of vital importance to library information management.

However, where a product is appropriate to another specific numbering system (such as continuing resources and ongoing integrating resources that qualify for the ISSN, and printed music that qualifies for the ISMN), then that system must be used. If appropriate, such identifiers should be used in conjunction with the ISBN.

ISBNs are assigned to monographic publications, including related products such as publications available as sets or as completed series that are available to the public, whether those publications and related products are available on a gratis basis or to purchase. In
addition, individual sections (such as chapters) of monographic publications or issues or articles of continuing resources that are made available separately may also use the ISBN
as an identifier. Provided that the publication qualifies for ISBN assignment, it is of no importance in what product form the content is documented and distributed; however, each product form and variation in product form detail and/or product form feature and/or usage constraint should be identified separately.

Examples of types of monographic publications eligible for ISBN are:

  • Printed books and pamphlets(and their various product forms)
  • Braille publications
  • Publications that are not intended by the publisher to be updated regularly or continued indefinitely
  • Audio books (talking books) either on a physical carrier or accessible on the Internet for download
  • Digital publications (e-books) either on physical carriers (such as machine-readable tapes, diskettes, or CD-ROMs) or on the Internet (for download or streaming)
  • Digitised copies of printed monographic publications that are available in the supply chain
  • Microform publications
  • Educational or instructional software, films, videos, DVDs, transparencies either on a physical carrier or accessible on the Internet for download or streaming
  • Mixed media publications where the principal constituent is text-based, e.g. book with CD or book with DVD
  • Individual articles1 or issues of a particular continuing resource where these are made available separately (but not the continuing resource in its entirety)
  • Art books and illustrated books with a title page and/or text or captions
  • e-book apps provided that they have a significant textual content and can be considered a monographic publication and are available to the public. Pictures, moving image and sound may be included.
  • Maps and atlases.