The NBC is the official issuer of ISBNs (International Standard Book Number) in Malta. Through ISBNs, the NBC can build a database of all books published.  ISBNs were 10 digits in length up to the end of December 2006, but since 1 January 2007 they now always consist of 13 digits. ISBNs are calculated using a specific mathematical formula and include a check digit to validate the number.

It is essentially a product identifier used by publishers, booksellers, libraries, internet retailers and other supply chain participants for ordering, listing, sales records and stock control purposes. The ISBN identifies the registrant as well as the specific title, edition and format.

It is always the publisher of the book who should apply for the ISBN. For the purposes of ISBN, the publisher is the group, organisation, company or individual who is responsible for initiating the production of a publication. Normally, it is also the person or body who bears the cost and financial risk in making a product available. It is not normally the printer, but it can be the author of the book if the author has chosen to publish their book themselves.

The NBC monitors that all ISBNs are released in accordance with international standards and obligations. All ISBNs are currently being registered and each number follows a series.

An ISBN can only be issued once a client provides the National Book Council with the details of the publication that will be using the number. The details that must be provided are title, author, format, publisher and year of publication of the book. Clients can apply for a number or set of numbers in advance without providing the details mentioned, however said numbers will only be issued once all necessary details are provided. This procedure will guarantee that numbers issued will follow a sequence.

Applicants for ISBN numbers are to note that a new application form has been drawn up whereby, under the caption ‘Product Format’, one has to specify the format of the file in case of an E-book. This information is necessary whenever the ISBN application is for an E-book as the ISBN identifies both the work and the format – the same work in a different format will have a different ISBN.

Apply by filling the ISBN application form attached here.

Read carefully the ISBN User’s Manual in Maltese clicking here.

Kindly note that as of 1 January 2020 all ISBNs and ISMNs are free of charge. Follow the link here for more information.