Self Publishing a book? Congratulations and Make Sure You Get an ISBN and CIP Data for it

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An article about self publishing a book, and getting an ISBN and CIP data.

Two books lay on the table in front of me. Both are donated by a faculty member to the library. I think they contain good content and I wanted to add them to the library’s collection. However, both publications lack International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) and Cataloguing-In-Publication (CIP) data.

self publishing a book
image caption: Apply for ISBN with National Library Board of Singapore

Without these two pieces of information, these books are like orphans in the book world. Aliens, unknownst in the world of information. Nobody knows about them except their authors, the printer and the handful of people who received them.

Booksellers probably won’t touch them and libraries need to spend more time and effort processing them because relevant bibliographic information is hard to locate.

The reason these books did not have ISBN and CIP information is that they were self-published. A book publisher does not make this kind of mistake.

The authors of the two books on my table probably did not realize this. If you are planning to write and publish a book without the assistance of a publisher, may I suggest taking the extra step to prepare it for the publishing world by applying for an ISBN and CIP?

What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a globally unique 13-digit numbered identifier assigned to a publication. It identifies the title of a publication, the publisher and the country it was published in.

It allows anyone with the ISBN to quickly look up the bibliographic details of the book in any database or search engine.

What is CIP Data?

CIP stands for Cataloguing-In-Publication Data. It is a record of a publication created using internationally established cataloguing standards usually by the national library of the country where it is published.

It provides standard information about a publication, allowing libraries to easily copy catalogue it to their own collections. It can also be easily added to trade directories, booksellers’ catalogues and bibliographies, making it easier to distribute. Buyers (individuals, institutions or libraries) also find it easier to select because there is basic information available.

The important thing about CIP data is that it is created and added to the back of the title page of the publication before going to print. This means that a draft copy must be sent to the national library for cataloguing first.

An example of a CIP data,

National Library Board, Singapore Cataloguing-in-Publication Data

Sum, Hedren, 1984- author, editor. 

Desert Playground/editor and content, Hedren Sum. - [Singapore] : School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, [2015] pages cm

ISBN: 978-981-09-5914-2 (paperback)

1. Art and technology. 2. Design and technology. 3. Sustainable design. 4. Art, Modern - 21st century. 5. Exchange of persons programs - Singapore. 

I. Nanyang Technological University. School of Art, Design and Media, publisher. 
II. Title. 

701.05 -- dc23

In Singapore, the Legal Deposit Department at the National Library Board handles the application for both ISBN and CIP data. More information can be found at

Application is free. Your only obligation is to personally deposit two copies of your books once it is printed with the National Library.

Added benefits of applying ISBN and CIP data with the National Library Board:

  1. Your publication is indexed in the Singapore National Bibliography.
  2. It is discoverable in

The Singapore National Bibliography (SNB): PublicationSG

The Singapore National Bibliography (SNB) started in 1969 as a select bibliography. In 2015, it was upgraded to PublicationSG. It now contains all titles published and deposited by publishers in Singapore with the National Library. 

PublicationSG is a useful resource for members of the public who are interested in Singapore’s published heritage. The objectives of the catalogue are:

  1. to serve as a long-term record of materials published in Singapore and deposited with NLB
  2. to aid libraries in the selection and acquisition of new materials for collection development 
  3. to provide access by serving as a reference source for librarians, researchers and bibliographers

Writing and self publishing a book is a major endeavour. I hope aspiring authors will remember to make sure their creations are not unknown or orphans by applying for an ISBN and CIP data.

This article was originally written for the January 2016 issue of NTU Libraries’ newsletter “Library Xpress”. 

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