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Placing and display of the ISBN and ISMN on publications

Placing and display of the ISBN and ISMN on publications

Placing and display of the ISBN and ISMN on publications

Printed publications

The code must always be clearly legible in the publication (minimum font size 9).
For printed material, the identifier is marked:

  • Primarily on the verso of the title page or at the foot of the title page or in conjunction with copyright notice
  • On the back cover and in conjunction with an GTIN / EAN-13, directly above the barcode
  • At the back of a loose cover, a protective sheet or a case or in another visible location on the exterior of the publication

If the identifier cannot be indicated in all these places, it must always be indicated inside the publication.


If a publication has two or more identifiers, they must all be indicated on the reverse side of the title page or in a equivalent place. Only the identifier referring to the publication in question must be indicated on its back cover, loose cover or case.

Examples of various publication formats: 
ISBN 978-952-493-003-1 (softcover)
ISBN 978-952-493-004-8 (PDF)

For example, ISBN and ISSN 
ISBN 978-952-5156-44-7
ISSN 1237-1807


The ISMN identifiers of all sections of a music publication, with section-specific information, must all be marked in at least one of the section contained in the publication. If possible, all identifiers may also be marked on all parts of the publication.

ISMN 979-0-321-76543-1 (score)
ISMN 979-0-321-76544-9 (piano score)
ISMN 979-0-321-76545-7 (set of parts)

E-books and online publications

If a book or notated music publication is available electronically, all of its product forms (e.g., CD-ROM or file formats such as PDF, EPUB, etc.) are assigned separate ISBN or ISMN identifiers, as they must be identifiable as separate products in the supply chain.

If the e-book or online publication is available for distribution using more than one type of digital rights management (DRM), whether created by the original publisher or by later distributors, both products are considered independent and require their own ISBN or ISMN. Separate identifiers aid in the management, dissemination and findability of data as well as the distribution of the electronic publication in question through various channels. DRM protection is used to connect the file format or version of the e-book to a particular platform, device or software. Separate identifiers are needed to separate different file formats and versions from one another.

All identifiers for a specific electronic publication must be marked on each version, and a note of the different versions added in parenthesis. The ISBN or ISMN should be on the title screen or on the first screen. It is also recommended that the identifier be recorded in the meta tag of the head element of the HTML text.

For example,

ISBN 978-951-45-9693-3 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-951-45-9694-0 (softcover)
ISBN 978-951-45-9695-7 (PDF)
ISBN 978-951-45-9696-4 (EPUB without DRM)
ISBN 978-951-45-9999-5 (EPUB with ACS4 DRM)


Online publications can also use URN (Uniform Resource Name) identifiers.

Section 6 of the ISBN Users’ Manual features more information on identifying electronic material and DRM protection.

Multi-volume publications and mixed media

Typically, a multi-volume publication will only be assigned one ISBN identifier. In addition, each volume will be assigned its own ISBN.

For example,
ISBN 978-951-638-500-9 (set)
ISBN 978-951-638-501-6 (volume 1)
ISBN 978-951-638-502-3 (volume 2)

Even if a multi-volume work is available as a single publication, each of the volumes is assigned a separate ISBN, as this will facilitate their handling in bookshops and libraries.

Mixed media refers to a publication that comprises two or more types of material, e.g., teaching packs. The ISBN is assigned to the mixed media publication as a whole, if the set has its own separate title indicated on the product. Similarly, an ISBN must be assigned to a part of the mixed media publication, if it is eligible for an ISBN identifier.

For example, if a notated music publication consisting of a set of parts is sold in a case, the ISMN identifiers of both the publication as a whole as well as of the individual parts must be indicated on the case. If the publication is a compilation, it cannot share an ISMN with individual works which may be published separately from the compilation.















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