ISBNs and University publications

This is a service for members of the University of Melbourne community. ISBNs are allocated by the University Library.

An International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a unique code for the identification of books and other published material, which is used whenever information on books needs to be recorded or communicated.

Apply for an ISBN

Individual staff or departments can apply for numbers when they produce a university publication.

ISBN Application Form

You will receive an email response with your ISBN and notification of requirements for Legal Deposit.

Some departments hold batches of ISBNs for allocation to future publications, so please check first.

The department requesting a batch of sequenced ISBNs accepts full responsibility for the accurate recording of publications and ensuring that this information is forwarded to Sherree Evans in Collection Development. T: (03) 903 54785

Where to place the ISBN

Print your allocated number on

  • the reverse side of the title page or the bottom of the title page, and
  • the base of the spine or the back cover of the book, and
  • the dust jacket (if any)

If it is not possible to print the ISBN in the preferred locations, print it in a prominent position on the book.

Which publications should receive ISBNs?


  • printed books and pamphlets
  • microform publications
  • microcomputer software
  • multi-media kits containing printed material
  • educational videos/DVDs
  • electronic publications
  • educational or instructional software

Editions, reprints and reissues

  • An ISBN should be assigned the first time a book is published.
  • A separate ISBN must be assigned to every edition of a book, but not to an unchanged reprint of the same book.
  • A reissued book is considered a different edition if it has a different format, such as microform or large print
    • it has a different binding, such as paperback or hardbound
    • the type has been reset
    • the title, author or publisher has changed
    • there has been a change in size, text or illustrations.

Multi-volume works

An ISBN should be assigned to the whole set of volumes of a multi-volume work, as well as to each individual volume in the set.

Reprints where the original had no ISBN

A reprint should be assigned an ISBN if the work did not have an ISBN when it was originally published.

Which publications should NOT receive ISBNs?

  • Ephemeral printed materials, such as:
    • posters
    • diaries
    • calendars
    • theatre and concert programs
    • advertising matter
    • prospectuses
  • Games
  • Music sound recordings
  • Sheet music, art prints and art folders without a title page of text
  • Serial publications, such as:
    • newspapers
    • magazines
    • annual reports

N.B. Serial publications are assigned an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).
Information is available from the Australian ISSN Agency, National Library of Australia.

Legal Deposit

The University is required to send one copy of every work that has been reproduced and supplied (whether by sale or otherwise) to the public to the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Victoria .

Legal Deposit Unit
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600
(within one month of publication)

Legal Deposit Officer
Acquisitions Department
State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
(within two months of publication)

Deposit in the University of Melbourne Library

The University Library has a special collection that aims to include all publications published within the University.
We would appreciate a copy of each publication being sent to Special Collections Level 3, Baillieu Library.

What is Legal Deposit?

Legal deposit is a statutory provision which obliges publishers to deposit copies of their publications in libraries in the country in which they are published. Under the Copyright Act 1968 and various State legislation, a copy of any work published in Australia must be deposited with the National Library of Australia and the appropriate State Library.

Legal deposit ensures that the works of authors and publishers will survive for the use of future generations, because the National Library and most other deposit libraries assume an obligation to preserve all material lodged with them.

The comprehensive collections of Australian publications formed in this way provide the means for research into all aspects of Australian life, culture, and artistic, commercial, technical and scientific endeavour.

Technically, a work intended for the public (i.e. an audience outside the University) can include almost any printed item that is considered library material:

  • book
  • periodical (including newsletter, annual report)
  • newspaper
  • brochure
  • pamphlet
  • musical score
  • catalogue
  • microfiche
  • microform
  • map
  • chart
  • plan
  • print and, for the State Library
  • picture and photograph

No legal deposit required

Commercial advertising material, and publications produced for internal University use are not included. In practice, the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Victoria do not pursue the whole range of publications.

The State Library does not wish to receive

  • any publication of less than five pages
  • brochures and leaflets promoting University courses
  • pictures, maps, photographs – these are only required in the form of the publication in which they appear.

Legal deposit is quite separate from book/serial numbering and applies whether or not an ISBN/ISSN has been assigned.

  • Legal deposit should not be confused with copyright.
  • Under the Copyright Act 1968, copyright protection is granted automatically in Australia from the moment of creating a work.
  • There are no formalities to be completed, such as registration or payment of fees.
  • Publication is not necessary for copyright to subsist in the work except in the case of sound and television broadcasts and publishers' copyright in editions of works.
  • Library records and the legal deposit slip issued to the publisher by some legal deposit libraries may be used as evidence of date of issue.

For advice to authors and publishers on copyright, contact the Australian Copyright Council.

More about ISBNs

As a unique code assigned to a book, an ISBN can be used for orders, stock control and library systems through the identification of title, publisher, binding and edition.

ISBNs are always 13 digits long and are divided into five parts. They should always be printed exactly as given:

017 006737

ISBN 978 0949155 09 8="color:>
ISBN 978 196252 140 9="color:>

The group identifier (first group of digits) is based on national, geographic or language considerations.
The publisher identifier (second and third groups of digits) designates a particular publisher or group of publishers.
The title identifier (fourth group of digits) is assigned to a particular title or edition of a title.
The check digit (last digit) is calculated from the preceding nine digits and is used by computers to trap errors made in the writing or keying of the ISBN number.

For further information, contact the Australian ISBN Agency.