ISBN Canada

A “Canadian Publisher” means a person or entity who:

  • Makes a publication available in Canada, and
  • Publishes from an official office of business that resides within Canada, and
  • Where, when present, the published material’s identified place of publication is within Canada, and
  • Has at least 75% of its employees based in Canada.

Please note: The ISMN (International Standard Music Number) is the required standard for any publisher wishing to distribute annotated music in Canada. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is currently developing separate web pages for ISMN, which will be available at a later date. For now, publishers may request an ISMN using the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) registration process.

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) Canada online system is a free service that allows publishers to manage their ISBN account and logbook, to assign their ISBNs to future publications, and to modify information about their publications.

To request ISBNs, you must first create an account in the ISBN Canada online system. As a Canadian publisher or self-publisher, you are able to manage your own ISBN account. This will allow you to view your logbook online, update and edit data, as well as request new ISBN blocks.

See our tutorial video: Everything you need to know about ISBN Canada.

To register, go to create an ISBN Canada account.

To access your account, login to the ISBN Canada online system

About ISBN Canada

ISBN frequently asked questions

Help

Canadian ISBN Publishers' Directory

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About ISBN Canada

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a system of numerical identification for books, pamphlets, educational kits, microforms, CD-ROMs and other digital and electronic publications. Assigning a unique number to each published title provides that title with its own, unduplicated, internationally recognized identifier. Each different format of an electronic publication (e.g., Kindle, Kobo, EPUB, MOBI, PDF) that is published and made separately available shall be given a separate ISBN. Publishers, booksellers, libraries and others in the book industry use ISBNs to identify publications and determine the publishing country. An ISBN is required for the sale and distribution of a publication.

Please note that periodicals, magazines, journals and other types of serial publications are not eligible for ISBNs. They are covered by a separate identification system called International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).

Printed music such as sheet music and music scores are assigned an International Standard Music Number (ISMN).

Definition of a Canadian publisher/self-publisher

“Canadian Publisher” means a person or entity who:

  • Makes a publication available in Canada, and
  • Publishes from an official office of business that resides within Canada, and
  • Where, when present, the published material’s identified place of publication is within Canada, and
  • Has at least 75% of its employees based in Canada.

Obtaining an ISBN

As a Canadian publisher or self-publisher, you can apply to obtain an ISBN through the ISBN Canada online system, or request that a form be sent to you by email, fax or regular mail. 

For inquiries, please call 1-866-578-7777 (select 1+7+3) or email BAC.ISBN.LAC@canada.ca.

ISBNs are free to Canadian publishers and are issued within 10 business days.

Obtaining an ISBN for Government of Canada publications

The Depository Services Program (DSP) of Public Works and Government Services Canada has delegated authority to assign ISBNs to publications produced by Canadian government departments and agencies. Applications for ISBNs may be submitted online by departmental publishing staff on the Government of Canada Publications website.

French-language publishers

If you are a French-language publisher located in Canada and you publish in French exclusively, you may wish to have an ISBN with a French-language designator 2. For more information, please contact the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) at isbn@banq.qc.ca.

Barcodes

The Canadian ISBN Agency does not provide barcodes; they are issued by private companies. We advise you to speak with your printer or graphic designer about barcodes, as some of them offer the barcoding service. You may also search for local barcode providers online or in the local yellow pages directory.

The 13-digit ISBN

The ISBN changed from a 10- to 13-digit number as of January 1, 2007. All sectors of the book trade and libraries are affected by this change. For details, please consult our frequently asked questions.

Contact us

Canadian ISBN Agency
Library and Archives Canada
550 De la Cité Boulevard
Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0N4
CANADA

Telephone: 819-994-6872
Library and Archives Canada: 1-866-578-7777 (select 1+7+3) (Toll free in Canada and the US)
Fax: 819-934-7535
Email: BAC.ISBN.LAC@canada.ca 

ISBN frequently asked questions

  1. What is an ISBN?
  2. What is ISBN-13?
  3. What items are eligible for ISBNs?
  4. Can I use both the 10-digit and 13-digit ISBN on a publication?
  5. Will the EAN prefix always remain '978'?
  6. How can I get an ISBN in Canada?
  7. Is my ISBN valid worldwide?
  8. How can I get a barcode for my book?
  9. What is the difference between ISBN, ISMN and ISSN?
  10. What is a publisher prefix?
  11. Does the ISBN protect my publication?
  12. What is the cost of an ISBN in Canada?
  13. Do different formats require separate ISBNs?
  14. Do I have to create an account every time I need an ISBN?
  15. What is ONIX?

1. What is an ISBN?

An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies each specific edition of a book or book-like product. This 13-digit number is divided into five parts of variable length; each part is separated by a hyphen.

The five parts of an ISBN, in order, are: 

  1. the EAN (European article number) product code: the first three digits of the EAN barcode number;
  2. the group identifier: a single digit following the EAN product code that specifies the country or language in which the book is published;
  3. the publisher prefix: a number that identifies a particular publisher within the preceding group;
  4. the title identifier: a number that identifies a particular title or edition of a title issued by the preceding publisher;
  5. the check digit: a single digit at the end of the ISBN that validates the accuracy of the ISBN.

2. What is ISBN-13?

Since 2007, ISBNs have changed from 10 digits to 13 digits. ISBN-13 is now the exclusive ISBN to be used on books and book-related products. Note: The letters ISBN always precede the number.

3. What items are eligible for ISBNs?

The ISBN is intended for a monographic publication: text that stands on its own as a product, whether in printed, audio or electronic format. ISBNs are never assigned to music, performances, or images, such as art prints or photographs. Below are examples of items that qualify for ISBN and also examples of items that do not qualify for ISBN. However, the lists are not exhaustive.

Items that qualify for ISBNs

  • Audiobooks
  • Books
  • Brochures
  • CD-ROMs (non–music)
  • DVDs (educational, documentary)
  • E-books (digital books)
  • Graphic novels
  • Maps
  • Pamphlets
  • Picture books
  • Posters (educational)
  • Storybooks

Items that do not qualify for ISBNs

  • Art prints and posters
  • Board games
  • Calendars
  • Colouring books (with no text)
  • Comic books (periodical format)
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Customizable products
  • Digital applications
  • Greeting cards
  • Individual pictures or photographs
  • Music CDs
  • Office supplies and stationery (e.g., agendas, bookmarks, diaries)
  • Periodicals (e.g. journals, magazines, newspapers)
  • Playing cards
  • Search engines
  • Sheet music and music scores
  • Shirts (e.g. t-shirts)
  • Websites

4. Can I use both the 10-digit and 13-digit ISBN on a publication?

Publications should only carry the 13-digit ISBN and EAN/UCC-13. However, you can use both the 10-digit and 13-digit ISBN on a publication if the ISBNs were issued between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2006.

5. Will the EAN prefix always remain "978"?

No. The EAN prefix 978 will change in the future. When that happens, ISBNs will have the prefix EAN 979. ISBNs that begin with 979 cannot be produced by a converter (i.e., by adding the prefix to a 10-digit ISBN and recalculating the check digit). These ISBNs cannot be converted to a 10-digit ISBN.

6. How can I get an ISBN in Canada?

Obtaining an ISBN
As a Canadian publisher or self-publisher, you can apply to obtain an ISBN through the ISBN Canada online system, or request that a form be sent to you by email, fax or regular mail. For inquiries, please call 1-866-578-7777 (select 1+7+3) or email BAC.ISBN.LAC@canada.ca.

ISBNs are free to Canadian publishers and are issued within 10 business days. 

Obtaining an ISBN for Government of Canada Publications
The Depository Services Program (DSP) of Public Works and Government Services Canada has delegated authority to assign ISBNs to publications produced by Canadian government organizations. Applications for ISBNs may be submitted online by departmental publishing staff on the Government of Canada Publications website: Apply for ISBN / Catalogue Number.

French-Language Publishers
If you are a French-language publisher located in Canada who publishes in French exclusively, you may wish to have an ISBN with a French-language designator 2. For more information, please contact the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) at isbn@banq.qc.ca

7. Is my ISBN valid worldwide?

Yes. An ISBN is valid internationally. As a publisher, you can use the same ISBN in each country where you wish to sell your books. In fact, you must only request ISBNs from the country in which you reside. For big publishing firms who have various offices worldwide, their ISBNs must be assigned from the country in which the head office or headquarters are located.

8. How can I get a barcode for my book?

The Canadian ISBN Agency does not provide barcodes; they are issued by private companies. We advise you to speak with your printer or graphic designer about barcodes, as some of them offer the barcoding service. You may also search for local barcode providers online or in the local yellow pages directory.

9. What is the difference between ISBN, ISMN and ISSN?

ISBN
ISBNs are International Standard Book Numbers. They can be assigned to monographic publications, such as books, e-books, audiobooks and manuscripts.
ISMN
ISMNs are International Standard Music Numbers. They can be assigned to printed or annotated musical publications, such as sheet music and music scores.
ISSN
ISSNs are International Standard Serial Numbers. They can be assigned to periodical publications, such as magazines, journals and comic books.

10. What is a publisher prefix?

A publisher prefix is not an ISBN! The publisher prefix identifies the publisher. A prefix issued by the Canadian ISBN Agency indicates that the publisher is Canadian. To obtain a full 13-digit ISBN, you must first apply for an ISBN Canada online system account. Once approved, you will receive an email with instructions to follow.

11. Does the ISBN protect my publication?

No. The ISBN identifies the publisher and the books published by the publisher. You will need an ISBN to sell and/or distribute your publication in libraries and bookstores. However, the ISBN does not protect your book. For questions about rights and protection, please contact the Copyright Office:

Canadian Intellectual Property Office 
Industry Canada
Place du Portage, Tower 1 
50 Victoria Street 
Gatineau, Quebec  K1A 0C9
Telephone: 1-866-997-1936
Fax: 819-953-2476
Email: cipo.contact@ic.gc.ca
Website: http://cipo.gc.ca 

12. What is the cost of an ISBN in Canada?

ISBNs are free. To obtain one, you must be a Canadian publisher or self-publisher physically and permanently located in Canada. You must have a Canadian-based company whose head office is located in Canada. Self-publishers must reside in Canada to obtain ISBNs from the Canadian ISBN Agency. The publisher's nationality, citizenship or intended market are irrelevant in the assignment of ISBNs.

13. Do different formats require separate ISBNs?

Yes. Every time there is a change in format or a change in edition, a new ISBN must be assigned (e.g., softcover, hardcover, e-book, new edition, revised edition, colour version, black and white version). An ISBN identifies one specific publication that belongs to a publisher. Different e-book formats (EPUB, MOBI, Kobo and PDF) also require separate ISBNs.

14. Do I have to create an account every time I need an ISBN?

No. You only need to create an online account once. After your ISBN Canada online system account has been approved by Canadian ISBN Agency staff, you will be able to request ISBN prefixes and assign numbers to your publications.

15. What is ONIX?

ONIX is a standard format or "language" that publishers must use when distributing electronic information about books to wholesale, online and retail booksellers, other publishers, and any other supply chain partner involved in the production, review or sale of books.

ONIX fields are used to describe a publication in the ISBN Canada online system. Only the publisher and the Canadian ISBN Agency can see this information. Publishers are free to change their information at any time.

The online system help files explain ONIX fields. You can also find more information on the BookNet Canada site

Help

Getting into ISBN Canada

To register for an ISBN account, all publishers, including those who have already received ISBNs in the past, must complete the online registration form.

Canadian ISBN Agency staff will review your application and will contact you if they have questions. However, you will first be directed to the Confirmation and Statement of Use.

Once your ISBN account is approved, you will receive an email with your username and password, and instructions for using the system.

Please note: mandatory fields are marked with an asterisk (*). You must complete these fields or your application will be rejected.

Creating an ISBN Canada account

To create an account in the online system, please complete the registration form. This will give Canadian ISBN Agency staff relevant information about your publishing company, your publisher contact (the individual user of the online system) and the items for which you need ISBNs.

Please note that it can take up to 10 business days for your account to be approved. 

Inputting publication information

The registration form has four sections:

  • Publisher information
  • Contact person information
  • Publisher/ISBN Agency activity
  • Publication information

You may return to any section at any time to add, change, or delete data you have input previously.

All fields marked with an asterisk (*) are mandatory.

Publisher information 
Information entered in this section becomes the official public publisher record and will be displayed in the Canadian ISBN Publishers' Directory.

Publisher name* 
This is the official name of the publishing company. It is also the official name of the group, society, association, entity, corporation, centre or person who pays the printer or manufacturer to produce the publication.

Publisher name is not:

  • the name of a printing company or graphic designer;
  • the name of a print-on-demand printing or publishing service;
  • an individual acting on behalf of a self-publisher. 

Self-publishers 
If you are an individual who is paying a printer to produce your publications, you are a self-publisher. Your publisher name can be:

  • your personal name;
  • an official company name, whether or not it is legally registered.

Contact name* 
Enter the name of the person who owns the publishing company. 

Contact job title*
With regards to the publications: are you the author, director, editor, secretary, etc.? 

Street address*
Enter the official address for the publisher. If you are a self-publisher, this may be a post office box number or your home address.

City* 

Province/State* 
Select from the drop-down menu. 

Postal code*
Use this format: X1X 1X1

Telephone* 
Use this format: 000-000-0000

Fax 
Optional. Use this format: 000-000-0000

Email 
Required if you wish to have access to the online system. If not, optional.

Website
Optional. Enter the official publisher website address (URL).

Contact person information 
This section provides information on the publisher's representative or agent who is applying for the ISBNs on the publisher's behalf. This information is for internal use only. It is not displayed in the Canadian ISBN Publishers' Directory.

Contact name* 
Enter the name of the person who will be accessing and managing the ISBN account. The contact is the primary person who manages the ISBN account. 

Contact job title* 
With regards to the publications. Please indicate the role of the contact person, such as author, designer, editor, illustrator, etc. 

Email*
Enter the contact's email address. It may be different from the official email address for the publisher. 

All notification messages from the Canadian ISBN Agency will be sent to this email address. 

Publisher/ISBN activity 
This section provides information on the publisher's ISBN-related activities. 

What was the last ISBN assigned to you? (if applicable)
Please indicate if you were assigned ISBNs in the past. 

I don't remember.
Check this box if you do not remember the last ISBN assigned to you. 

How many ISBNs do you estimate you will use during the next three (3) years? 
If you plan on publishing different formats (hardcover, softcover, e-book) you will need a unique ISBN for each edition.

Publication information 
Describe one (1) forthcoming publication (e.g., book, video, CD) that currently requires an ISBN.

This information is required to set up your account. 
These bibliographic elements conform to the ISO standard for ISBN-13 and also to BookNet Canada. From your ISBN account, you may download your descriptions in XML format or in delimited text, for input into the BookNet Canada (BNC) Excel template, to exchange this data with your book trade partners. For more information on this, see the BNC ONIX Guidebook.

Type of publication*
This field refers to the binding, media, or format of your publication. 

Select a type from the drop-down menu.

Title* 
The title is the exact, formal title that will appear on the publication title page of a book, or will be prominently displayed elsewhere for other formats. 

Subtitle 
Optional. Useful for distinguishing works with the same title but different subtitles. 

Publication date* 
Enter the anticipated date of publication. Please indicate the month and year.

Click <Submit> when you have completed this section.

Once you have submitted your registration form, your application will be sent to the ISBN Canada online system. When it has been approved, you will receive an email with your username and password to the email address you supplied in the Contact person information section of the registration form. You will then be able to login to your account.

Using the online system to manage your ISBNs

Logging in 

  • Go to the login screen.
  • Enter your Username and Password.
  • Click on <Login>. (if you have forgotten your password, click on <Forgotten Password?>. 

Editing publisher information 

  • Select <Profile> from the menu.
  • Click the <Edit> button.
  • Complete all mandatory fields (marked with an asterisk *) on the <Edit Publisher> page.
  • Click <Save> when the form is completed.

How to assign an ISBN

  • Select <Manage Logbook> from the menu.
  • Click on <Assign New ISBN> in the white space at the top of the page. 

Updating item description

  • Select <Manage Logbook> on the menu.
  • Click on the ISBN for which you wish to change the publication information.
  • Input or edit the item description.
  • Click on <Update>.

Requesting an ISBN prefix 
Note: All ISBNs in your current logbook must be used before we can assign a new block. 

  • Select <Request ISBN Prefix> from the menu.
  • Choose a block size based on anticipated publications.
  • Click the <Submit Query> button.

Your request will be sent to the Canadian ISBN Agency mailbox. Staff will review your request and assign the next block within 1–2 business days. (This time may vary if clarification is required.)

Service standard 
Approval in the system may take up to 10 business days.

Canadian ISBN Publishers' Directory

About the Directory

What's included in the directory

The Canadian ISBN Publishers' Directory contains the names and contact information of most Canadian publishers, past and present, who have been assigned ISBNs from the Canadian ISBN Agency. It lists over 55,000 publishers who use ISBNs for their Canadian publications.

Information in the directory is provided by the ISBN Canada online system. The system is a free online service allowing publishers to manage their ISBN logbooks, to assign their ISBNs to future publications, and to modify information about their publications.

What's not in the directory

Many French-language publishers are not included in the directory because their ISBNs are assigned by the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). For more information, consult BAnQ’s Directory of Canadian French-language publishers (available in French only).

Or contact BAnQ:
Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Agence ISBN 
2275 rue Holt 
Montréal, QuébecH2G 3H1 
Telephone (Montréal): 514-873-1101, ext. 3785 
or 1-800-363-9028, ext. 3785 (toll free) 
Fax: 514-873-4310 
Email: isbn@banq.qc.ca 
www.banq.qc.ca

Currency of information

Publishers are responsible for updating their information in the Canadian ISBN Publishers' Directory. The Canadian ISBN Agency may also update information as it becomes available. If a publisher has not entered the online system recently, the information in that publisher's listing may not be up to date.

Publishers who have ceased operations

The Canadian ISBN Publishers' Directory is a complete record of all publishers who have registered with the ISBN Canada system, including publishers who have ceased operations. As the information becomes available, records in the directory are updated to indicate that a publisher has ceased operations.

Information in the directory listings

Each listing in the Directory gives the publisher's name and postal address, plus telephone number and email address where applicable.

Search the Canadian ISBN Publisher's Directory

Search the Directory

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