ISBN Information

Administration of the ISBN System

The ISBN system is administered at three levels

  • the international agency
  • group agencies
  • publishers

The International Agency

The ISBN international agency is the global authority for the ISBN system, is appointed by ISO as the registration authority for the ISBN system worldwide, and is located in London.

Contact Details:
International ISBN Agency
United House
North Road
London N7 9DP
United Kingdom
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)20 7503 6418  e-mail: 

The functions of the international agency are:

  • the promotion, coordination and supervision of the ISBN system worldwide
  • the approval of the definition and structure of group agencies
  • the allocation of group identifiers to group agencies
  • to advise group agencies on their establishment and functioning
  • to advise group agencies on the allocation of international publisher identifiers
  • to publish the assigned group identifiers and publishers prefixes

The Group Agencies

The international agency oversees the group agencies. Group agencies administer the interests of the ISBN system in a national, regional, linguistic or other division.

The group agencies are responsible for allocating publisher identifiers to participating publishers, and to supply them with the range of title identifiers allocated to them. Group agencies are responsible for maintaining registers of ISBN and collating statistics and reports on ISBN usage within their jurisdictions. The training, education and promotion is the responsibility of group agencies.


Publishers are responsible for assigning ISBN to their own individual publications in accordance with the proper regulations and from the lists of individual ISBN supplied by their group agency.

The group agency makes such individual ISBN to publishers in accordance with anticipated usage by the publisher. As the volume of available ISBN is not infinite, the length of the publisher id and blocks of ISBN supplied to individual publishers is made on the basis of a publishers historical publication activity as well as anticipated future use.