Information Services


Advice on the several essential administrative steps you must take when self-publishing.

There are basic administrative steps to fully publishing a book, pamphlet or periodical, including a newsletter or series of bulletins.

The essential administrative steps of self publishing are:

  • to assign an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and/or
  • to assign an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)
  • to consider submission of publication details to Cataloguing in Publication (CIP)
  • to send a legal deposit copy to the British Library (required by law)
  • to allow up to one copy each to be claimed by the other five copyright deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland.

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs)

The Library has a block of ISBNs that can be allocated to staff or students who are publishing work.  ISBNs are allocated to one-off, non-recurrent, publications which include books, pamphlets, reports, and all publications which are not expected to be repeated on a regular basis.

This could include:

  • volumes of conference papers and proceedings
  • individual lectures
  • individual working papers
  • occasional publications of all kinds.

Each ISBN is unique to one particular edition of one particular title. If a title appears as one of a series, the title of the series should have an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) in addition to the ISBN given to the specific publication title.

If you would like an ISBN please read our guidelines, then get in contact with the Scholarly Communications Team or fill in our application form.

International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSNs)

ISSNs apply to periodicals or series, the titles of which do not change with each issue, and for which there is no planned end. Such serials include publications such as:

  • Edit: the University of Edinburgh Magazine
  • The University of Edinburgh Annual Report*
  • The University of Edinburgh Journal - (published twice a year by the University of Edinburgh Graduates' Association)
  • The Piper: Newsletter of the Friends of Edinburgh University Library
  • Africa Bibliography* (published annually by Edinburgh University Press)

Each issue of the two titles indicated by an asterisk * could be given an ISBN as well as an ISSN, since it stands alone as a publication like a book which most of the others do not.

ISSNs may also be assigned to electronic journal titles.

ISSNs are issued free of charge by the ISSN UK Centre. The Centre requires details of the periodical, including title, frequency, and planned dates of publication.

Each ISSN is unique to one particular serial title. If the wording of the title changes, even in the slightest detail (e.g. if 'Annual Report' changes to 'Report for the Year'), you MUST request a new ISSN for the new title.

National Serials Data Centre watchdogs look out for changes of title!

ISSN UK Centre
The British Library, Boston Spa,
Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7BQ
Phone: +44 (0) 1937 546959

Cataloguing in Publication (CIP)

The Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) Programme provides information about new and forthcoming books in advance of publication in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The CIP scheme is run by Bibliographic Data Services Limited for the British Library.

Legal Deposit: the British Library

As a publisher, and by assigning ISBNs and/or ISSNs, you have a legal obligation to send one copy of each of your publications to the Legal Deposit Office of the British Library within one month of publication.

The Legal Deposit Office
The British Library, Boston Spa,
Wetherby, West Yorkshire LS23 7BQ

The advice is to send a copy of the publication to the British Library whether or not ISBNs or ISSNs are applied for, since it does, in fact, complete the copyright procedure.

Copyright deposit applies to printed publications. There are interim arrangements for electronic publications and a separate address for newspaper deposit.

Full details on legal deposit are available on the British Library website.

Legal Deposit: the other five libraries

There are five other copyright deposit libraries in the UK and Ireland:

  • the National Library of Scotland
  • the National Library of Wales
  • the Bodleian Library, Oxford
  • Cambridge University Library
  • Trinity College Library, Dublin.

Each library is entitled to claim one free copy of a publication. Although it is open for publishers to send a copy to each library separately (they should be clearly marked as legal deposit copies), the easiest way of dealing with this is to send five copies to the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries.

Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries
161 Causewayside
Edinburgh EH9 1PH
Phone: +44 (0) 131 623 4680

Please note that this agency does not act for the British Library.

Open access publishing

The Scholarly Communication Team based in the Library supports the adoption of open access publishing within the University. The team provides training and support for staff members to help them follow research funders open access policies and issues surrounding copyright and article versioning. The team also provide help to understand the costs of open access publishing and administer the RCUK and Wellcome Trust open access block grants.

Further information

The Writers and Artists' Year Book, published annually by A. & C. Black is a useful and reliable source of information for publishers.

The current edition is available in the Reference Area of the University’s Main Library. Other books on publication, copyright, legal deposit, and related topics are also available form the Library.

To the best of our knowledge the information provided on these pages is accurate at the time of publication, but we would be grateful for information that corrects any errors or that updates, or otherwise enhances, this information. If we can be of further help please contact the Copyright Enquiry service.

Contact Copyright Enquiry