Due to the high volume of ISBN requests being received, staff of the Legislative Library have created this FAQ. Links to further information on ISBN are included in these answers. Should you have any further questions, please contact us at


An ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique international identifier for publications. The ISBN program is international in scope and is directed in Canada by Library and Archives Canada (LAC). The Legislative Library assigns ISBNs to Ontario government documents on behalf of LAC. ISBNs are used to quickly and efficiently identify, order, distribute and retrieve publications.

ISBN in general

  • Complete the ISBN Request form following the instructions.
  • Submit the form as an attachment and send it to
  • Include the date that the ISBN is needed in the subject line of your email.
  • Submit the request only once.

ISBNs will be filled within five working days.

ISBNs are unique numbers authorized by the International Organization for Standardization to identify publications.

The Government Publications Directive states that all publications, with certain exceptions, must have an ISBN.

ISBNs are a fast, effective way for OPS staff, researchers, scientists, and the public to find your publications in Publications Ontario catalogues, library catalogues, other bibliographic databases, and online search engines.

ISBNs are assigned to publications that are intended to be issued once. Revisions and new editions require a new ISBN. Examples: research and investigative reports, manuals, handbooks, informational fact sheets, maps, policy and planning documents.

If you plan to publish your document on a regular basis, such as an annual report, you require an ISSN

Note: An ISBN may be assigned each year to an annual report to identify the specific year of the report. However, the annual report must be assigned an ISSN first.

No. Once an ISBN is assigned to a publication it can not be reused for another publication even if the original ISBN was assigned in error.

Yes. You can obtain an ISBN using the working title. However, you should inform us at about the final title or if you cancel your publication.

Yes. You can obtain an ISBN using the English title and qualifying it with the word “French.” Example: “Health care in long-term care facilities [French]”

Yes. The Roman numeral X is used instead of the number 10. For more information on the structure and meaning of the ISBN see the International ISBN Agency (external site).

No. There is no connection between the ISBN and copyright.

Yes. The number of copies published is not relevant to the ISBN assignment.

No. ISBNs are assigned to publications that are distributed to the public. If the publication is only being distributed internally, it does not require an ISBN.

Yes. You can use the same form for multiple ISBN requests.

Publications that require ISBN

  • Resources distributed to the public in print and/or electronic formats (e.g., HTML, PDF, TXT) 
  • Content that is fixed and unchanged until new revisions or editions are published
  • Examples: Research reports, audit reports, investigative reports, working group reports, manuals, handbooks, guides, policy and planning documents, maps, multi-volume sets
  • Resources that are not intended for the public (e.g., posted to an intranet only)
  • Continually or dynamically updated web pages or databases
  • Ephemeral material, such as media and news releases, art prints, posters, and calendars 


Yes. The size of the publication is not relevant for the ISBN assignment.

No. If the text has not changed, a new ISBN is not required.

Yes. A new ISBN is assigned if there has been a change to any part of the publication. However, minor changes to a publication, such as a new cover design, change in price or typo corrections do not require a new ISBN.

Yes. For example, a publication issued in print, pdf, and html requires three ISBNs.

Yes. For example, a publication issued in separate English and French editions require two ISBNs.

It depends. If the loose-leaf publication will not be updated, it is assigned an ISBN. If the loose-leaf publication will be updated, it is assigned an ISSN.

Yes. An ISBN is assigned to the entire set and a different ISBN is assigned to each volume within the set.

Yes. Each title within the series is assigned its own ISBN.

No, but an ISBN may be assigned each year to identify the specific year of the report. However, the publication must be assigned an ISSN first.

Using the ISBN in your publication

Print publications

Put the ISBN on the verso of the title page (copyright page) or foot of the title page, and on the lower section of the outside back cover.

Bilingual publications (French and English bound together)

Put the same ISBN on the verso of both the English and French title pages.

Multi-volume sets

The ISBN for the set as a whole should be put together with the ISBN for the particular volume.

Example for Vol. 1:

ISBN 978-1-4249-6171-9 (set)
ISBN 978-1-4249-6172-6 (v.1)

Example for Vol. 2:

ISBN 978-1-4249-6171-9 (set)
ISBN 978-1-4249-6173-7 (v.2)

PDF publications

Put the ISBN on the first page of the item.

HTML publications

Put the ISBN on the first screen of the item.


Put the ISBN on the disk label and the container and also on the initial screen when the content is first accessed.

Educational kits

Put the ISBN on the packaging label of a kit that includes a variety of formats.

Publications issued in more than one format

Put all assigned ISBNs on each format and qualify the ISBN to indicate the format.


ISBN 978-1-4249-8500-5 (Print)
ISBN 978-1-4249-8501-2 (HTML)
ISBN 978-1-4249-8502-9 (PDF)

What if our publication plans change?

Yes. There is no expiry date for an ISBN. 

Yes. You should inform us of the title change so that we can update the records.

No. The HTML is a new format and requires its own ISBN. However, if it is being published in HTML instead of PDF, contact us at

You should inform us at if you cancel your publication.