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ISBN Registration

International Standard Book Number (ISBN) Application


The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) system, established in 1967, was introduced to Hong Kong in 1976.  ISBNs allow efficient and accurate identification of book titles, publishers, and places of publication.  They are widely used by publishers, booksellers, and libraries for book ordering and stock control.  The original 10-digit format has expanded to 13 digits since 1 January 2007.


How to Apply for ISBN

1.Company/Organization Publisher
Submit the following documents to the Books Registration Office (BRO) by post or in person:
(a)  the completed “International Standard Book Number (ISBN)” Application Form; and(b)  a copy of Business Registration Certificate (valid for at least three months) or Certificate of Registration of a Society.

2. Individual Publisher
Bring along your Hong Kong Identity Card to the BRO and submit the application in person.


Notes on Application for ISBN

1. The assignment of ISBN to published books is not a statutory requirement in Hong Kong, nor is it related to or associated with copyright ownership.

2. No application fee is required. ISBNs carry no expiry dates but are not to be reused.

3. According to the guidelines from the International ISBN Agency, ISBNs should be assigned on the basis of the operation locations of publishers.  As such, the ISBNs issued by BRO are for use by publishers operating in Hong Kong only and should not be assigned to books published outside Hong Kong, including Mainland China and overseas.

4. A company/organization should provide its address in Hong Kong as shown on its Business Registration Certificate (issued by the Inland Revenue Department, Hong Kong) or Certificate of Registration of a Society (issued by the Police Licensing Office, Hong Kong Police Force) and furnish a copy of the certificate as proof.  Besides, it may also be required to furnish supplementary proof of operation address.

5. In general, the ISBNs will be sent by post within 3 to 4 working days to the Hong Kong address specified in the application form, provided that the documents and information submitted by the applicant are in order and complete.

6. The quantity of ISBNs to be issued by the BRO depends on the publisher’s actual needs (e.g. publication progress) and track records of book publication/registration.  In general, at least 10 ISBNs will be issued under one application. When about 70% of the ISBNs owned by a publisher have been used, and the books have been duly delivered to the BRO for registration in accordance with the Books Registration Ordinance (Cap. 142), the publisher may apply for the next batch of ISBNs following the same procedure as the first application.

7. If any ISBNs are assigned to non-print publications (e.g. e-books and audio books), the publisher should notify the BRO in writing.

8. ISBNs are inapplicable to newspapers, magazines and periodicals, which fall under the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) system.  For details, visit the ISSN website at

9. ISBNs are non-transferable. The ISBNs issued by the BRO are for use by the applicant only.  The ISBN and the corresponding publisher printed on a book should match with BRO records.

10. Written notification should be sent to the BRO for any change of particulars.  In the case of change of business name or address of a company/organization, a copy of the updated Business Registration Certificate/Certificate of Registration of a Society should be furnished.



ISBNs are applicable to:

     printed books and pamphlets

     atlases and maps  

     Braille publications  

     mixed media publications   

     electronic publications microforms  

     educational videos or movies  

     microcomputer software (please refer to the guidelines extracted from ISBN Review)  


ISBNs are not applicable to:

     newspapers and magazines

     serial publications

     diaries and calendars  

     advertising matters  

     art folders without title page and text  

     sound recordings   


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