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International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

 

 

 

Introduction 

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) system, established in 1967, was introduced to Hong Kong in 1976.  ISBNs allow efficient and accurate identification of book titles, publishers, and places of publication.  They are widely used by publishers, booksellers, and libraries for book ordering and stock control.  The original 10-digit format has expanded to 13 digits since 1 January 2007.

How to Apply for ISBN

  1. Company/Organisation
    The applicant should submit the following documents to the Books Registration Office (BRO) by post or in person:
    (a) original of a completed International Standard Book Number (ISBN) Application Form; and
    (b) a copy of Business Registration Certificate (valid for at least three months) or Certificate of Registration of a Society.
  2. Individual 
    The applicant should bring along his/her original Hong Kong Identity Card and submit the application in person to the BRO.
    Publishers holding an e-Cert may submit electronic applications to the BRO.

Application Fee 

No application fee is required.

Application Form

Notes on Application for ISBN

  1. The assignment of ISBNs to published books is not a statutory requirement in Hong Kong, nor is it related to or associated with copyright ownership.
  2. No application fee is required.  ISBNs have no expiry dates, but they cannot be reused.
  3. According to the guidelines of the International ISBN Agency, ISBNs are assigned based on where the publisher operates its business.  The ISBNs issued by the BRO are for use by publishers operating in Hong Kong only and should not be assigned to books published outside Hong Kong, including the Mainland and overseas.
  4. The company/organisation applying for ISBNs should provide the Hong Kong address as shown on the Business Registration Certificate (issued by the Inland Revenue Department) or Certificate of Registration of a Society (issued by the Police Licensing Office of the Hong Kong Police Force) and furnish a copy of the certificate as proof.  The applicant may also be required to provide supplementary proof of its operation address.
  5. In general, the ISBNs will be sent by post within three to four working days to the Hong Kong address specified in the application form, provided that the documents and information submitted by the applicant are in order and complete.
  6. The quantity of ISBNs to be issued by the BRO depends on the actual needs of the applicant (e.g. publishing progress) and track records of book registration.  Generally speaking, at least 10 ISBNs will be issued for each application.  A publisher may follow the above procedures to apply for another batch of ISBNs when about 70% of the ISBNs in the previous allocation have been used and the books have been duly delivered to the BRO for registration in accordance with the Books Registration Ordinance (Cap. 142).
  7. If ISBNs are assigned to non-print publications (e.g. e-books and audio books), the publisher should notify the BRO in writing.  Please contact the BRO for more details.
  8. ISBNs are not applicable to newspapers, magazines and periodicals, which fall under the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) system.  For details, please visit the ISSN website ( http://www.issn.org ).
  9. ISBNs are non-transferable.  The ISBNs issued by the BRO are for applicant’s use only.  The ISBN and the corresponding publisher printed on a book should match with records of the BRO.
  10. Any change of particulars should be notified to the BRO in writing.  If a company/organisation changes its business name or address, a copy of the updated Business Registration Certificate/Certificate of Registration of a Society should be sent to the BRO.
  11. Please visit the following website for reference:
    International ISBN Agency -
    http://www.isbn-international.org/

Scope

  ISBNs are applicable to:

  • printed books and pamphlets
  • atlases and maps  
  • Braille publications  
  • mixed media publications  
  • electronic publications
  • microforms 
  • educational videos or movies  
  • microcomputer software (please refer to the guidelines extracted from ISBN Review)

 ISBNs are not applicable to:

  • newspapers and magazines
  • serial publications
  • diaries and calendars  
  • advertising matters  
  • art folders without title page and text  
  • sound recordings   

Structure of an ISBN

Every ISBN comprises 13 digits, which can be grouped into five sections:

  1. Prefix Element – Adopting the Prefix Element assigned to books by the GS1, all ISBNs are currently prefixed by “978”.  When ISBNs with “978” prefix are exhausted, the new “979” prefix will be used.
  2. Group Identifier – This identifies the particular country, geographical region, or language area of the publisher.  The Group Identifier of Hong Kong is “962” or "988”.
  3. Publisher Prefix – This identifies the publisher of a given book.
  4. Title Number – This is assigned by the publisher to a given title or an edition of a given title.
  5. Check Digit – This validates the ISBN.

These five sections are of varying lengths and separated by hyphens or spaces. 

Example:

ISBN 978 - 962 - 215 - 001 - 0 or
ISBN 978   962   215   001    

Calculation of the Check Digit

  1. Multiply each of the first 12 digits of the ISBN by alternate weights of 1 and 3;
  2. Add all the weighted products together;
  3. Divide the sum by 10 to determine the remainder; and
  4. Finally subtract the remainder from 10 to derive the Check Digit.  If there is no remainder (i.e. the sum is divisible by 10), then the Check Digit is 0.

Example

 

Prefix Element Group Identifier Publisher Prefix Title Number Check Digit Sum

ISBN

9

7

8

9

8

8

9

7

0

1

0

7

?

-

Weight

1

3

1

3

1

3

1

3

1

3

1

3

-

-

Product

9

21

8

27

8

24

9

21

0

3

0

21

-

151

9+21+8+27+8+24+9+21+0+3+0+21=151
151÷10=15  remainder 1
Check Digit=10–1=9
In this case, the valid ISBN is 978-988-97010-7-9

Enquiries

Books Registration Office, Hong Kong Public Libraries
Leisure and Cultural Services Department

Address: Room 805, Lai Chi Kok Government Offices, 19 Lai Wan Road, Lai Chi Kok, Kowloon
(Exit C, MTR Mei Foo Station)
Telephone: 2180 9145 (ISBNs) / 2180 9146 (Books) / 2742 8981 (Periodicals)
Fax: 2180 9841
E-mail: bro@lcsd.gov.hk

Office Hours

Monday to Friday : 8:45 am - 1:00 pm
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Saturday, Sunday and Public Holiday : Closed