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FAQs: ISBN Eligibility
The ISBN is intended for a monographic publication: text that stands on its own as a product, whether printed, audio or electronic. ISBNs are never assigned to music, performances or images, such as art prints or photographs. Consult the chart below to determine if specific products/entities are eligible for ISBNs.
PRODUCT/ENTITYELIGIBLE?
Advertising and promotional materialsNo
AudiobooksYes
BlogsNo, publications subject to frequent update (online databases, blogs) are not eligible for ISBNs.
Board gamesNo
Broadsides/broadsheetsBroadsides are eligible for ISBNs if the content is not serial in nature. A broadside, also called a broadsheet, is a large sheet of paper, newspaper-size, which is printed, almost poster-like, on one side.
Brochures and pamphletsYes
CalendarsNo, unless required by the retailer
Cell phone novelsYes, the content of such a publication could be identified by ISBN in this format.
Compact discs (CDs)CDs are only eligible for ISBNs if they are spoken word or instructional. Music or performance CDs are never assigned ISBNs. Meditation CDs that combine music and spoken word are not eligible for ISBNs. If the CD is eligible for an ISBN, the ISBN is placed near the copyright line on the packaging. The UPC (now called the GS1) bar code is the appropriate product identification standard for a music CD.
ClothingNo
Chapters, paragraphs, charts, etc.Chapters, paragraphs, charts and other sections of published text are eligible for their own ISBNs if a publisher is selling them separately.
Coffee mugs and other utensilsNo
Coloring booksYes
Comic booksComic books, since they are serials, do not get ISBNs. However, graphic novels are eligible for ISBNs.
Digital customized publicationsNo, unless a publisher’s internal assignment is necessary for back office systems, such as finance or inventory control.
DVDsDVDs may not get an ISBN if they are entertainment or performance videos. If the DVD is instructional or educational, then the DVD is eligible for an ISBN. However, retailers vary in their requirements regarding the type of product identification. Publishers should check with their retailers for requirements. If the DVD is eligible for an ISBN, the ISBN is placed near the copyright line on the packaging.
Electronic advertising / promotional materialsNo
Electronic newsletters / e-zinesNo (see Serials)
Electronic schedulersNo, electronic devices are not assigned ISBNs, but a program on the device could be assigned an ISBN, if it were instructional or educational in nature.
Electronic/video gamesNo
EmailsNo
Flash cardsOnly if instructional in nature. Playing cards and tarot cards are not eligible for ISBNs.
Food and medicineNo
Graphic novelsYes (see Comic books)
Greeting cardsGreeting cards are not assigned ISBNs unless required by the retailer. If assigned, they are assigned by price point rather than design. For example, if several different designs are all sold for the same price, only one ISBN is used.
Historical documentsYes. Historical documents archived in a library or museum are part of the bibliographic record of interest to researchers. They meet the criteria for discoverability and reporting that is part of the ISBN system.
Journals and diariesJournals and diaries can be assigned ISBNs when required by retailers.
Loose-leaf volumesYes, such reference works are routinely tracked by revenue strands (individual vs. library subscription reporting) by publishers.
MagazinesNo (see Serials)
MapsYes
Music/performance CDsNo (see Compact discs)
Online databasesNo, publications subject to frequent update (online databases, blogs, etc.) are not eligible for ISBNs.
Pamphlets and brochuresYes
PeriodicalsNo (see Serials)
Personal documents, if digitizedNo
Pictures and photographsNo. ISBNs are never assigned to images; they are used for text.
Playing cards and tarot cardsNo
PodiobooksYes, this format of audio book could be assigned an ISBN.
PostcardsNo
Posters and art printsNo. ISBNs are never assigned to images; they are used for text.
Puzzle booksYes, puzzle books are eligible for ISBNs, including but not limited to crossword puzzles and Sudoku books.
Search enginesNo
Serials (magazines, periodicals, etc.)Magazines, periodicals and serials of any type do not get ISBNs. They are assigned ISSNs, available from the Library of Congress, or BIPAD numbers, available at bipad.com. However, if a single issue of a periodical is being sold as a book, then that issue alone may be assigned an ISBN.
Sheet musicNo, sheet music does not get ISBNs. The ISMN is the appropriate standard for sheet music, which doesn’t have any binding. ISBNs are not assigned to books of printed music.
Shirts and other apparelNo
SoftwareOnly if it is educational or instructional
Stationery itemsNo
Toys, including stuffed animalsNo
USB drives/sticksDevices themselves are not assigned ISBNs, but the text content sold in this particular format may be identified by an ISBN.
Web-based booksWebsites are not assigned ISBNs. However, if the publisher needs to identify tracking, trading and discovery between two product types, one of which is an accessible web-based product, then the ISBN can be assigned to the product in its web-based version.
Web-based gamesNo. Electronic games, whether web-based or otherwise, are not eligible for ISBNs.
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