Issuing of International Standard Book Numbers(ISBN) in Uganda

The National Library of Uganda is the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) Agency for Uganda

The ISBN is a 13 –digit number that should be assigned to each book and it uniquely identifies books and book like products published internationally; and the offices of the International ISBN Agency is based in London, United Kingdom. 
The National Library of Uganda is the sole organization that issues the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) in Uganda; The NLU started issuing ISBN’s in 2011. The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify a title or an edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by book sellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

The relevance/ importance of ISBN:

  •  Authors / materials are recognized, it’s cheap, Identification tool.
  • Book sellers/ libraries; Retrieval, Keep track of titles for selling and procurement purposes especially during selection and quotation since it’s a unique identifier.
  • Book readers; Retrieval

Every ISBN consists of thirteen digits and whenever it is printed, it is preceded by the letters ISBN. The thirteen digit numbers is divided into four parts of variable length, each part separated by a hyphen. The four parts are as follows:

  • Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers;
  • Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group;
  • Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title;
  • Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN

There are over 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, and each ISBN agency is appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBN’s to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory. The Ugandan ISBN agency is the National Library of Uganda and is the only source authorized to assign ISBN’s to publishers in Uganda. Once an ISBN publisher prefix and associated block of numbers has been assigned to a publisher by the ISBN agency, the publisher can assign ISBN’s to publications it holds publishing rights to. However, after the ISBN Agency assigns ISBN’s to a publisher, that publisher cannot resell, re assign, transfer or split its list of ISBN’s among other publishers. These guidelines have long been established to ensure the veracity, accuracy and continued utility of the international ISBN standard. As defined by the ISO standard, the ISBN publisher prefix identifies a single publisher and if new publishers, you should apply for their own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate their books properly in the industry supply chain.


The National Library of Uganda assigns ISBN’s at the direct request of publishers, e-book publishers, audio cassette and video producers, software producers and museums and associations with publishing programs. An ISBN costs forty thousand shilling and it would take fifteen minutes to for one to obtain it from the National Library of Uganda, as long as they have provided all the information. Provision of the information can be done online. ISBN’s are sold in as:

one (shs. 30,000), and in discounted blocks of

5, (shs. 100,000)

10, (shs. 150,000)

100, (shs. 1,000,000) and

1000 (shs. 5,000,000)

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When purchasing ISBN’s, the National Library of Uganda recommends that you the publisher estimates the amount of publications you will be publishing in the next one year and select the block that best suits your needs. An ISBN gets placed on the copyright page, and the barcode placed on the back cover, ISBN’s are assigned based on the geographical location of the publisher but not the printing company but if the book appears in different languages, then each language version is a different product and therefore would require a different ISBN.

Points to note; the printing of a book should take the following format.

  1. Cover- This usually shows the title and the publisher (This can be hard cover or paperback).
  2. Title page-This is the page that shows the full details of the title and the publisher, as well as the year of publication.
  3.  The back of the title page-This carries information about the publisher, the publication date, copy right information and the ISBN.
  4. Content page-This gives a detailed list of the contents of the book, usually the headings and their corresponding page numbers.
  5. Foreword  (If any)-This is a short write up by a prominent person about the book being published, It is important to note that the word is ‘Foreword’ and not ‘Forward’ or ‘For word’
  6. List of Acronym- This is a list of acronyms that have been used in the text. ( This usually appears in books of academic nature)
  7. Glossary- This is an explanation of any terms used. ( This usually appears in papers of academic nature)  
  8. For help: Call: 0414233633