Self-publishing a book? Make sure you get an ISBN and CIP data for it

Screenshot of NLB Legal Deposit

An article about self-publishing a book, getting an ISBN and CIP data. This article was originally written for the January 2016 issue of NTU Libraries’ newsletter “Library Xpress”. 

2 books lay on the table in front of me. Both are donated by a faculty member to the library. I think they contain fairly 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.

Without these 2 pieces of information, these books are like orphans, aliens, unknowns in the world of information.

Creative Wrapping Paper, a how to.

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.

I don’t think the authors of the 2 books on my table realized this. If you are ever going 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?

What is an ISBN?

ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. It is a global 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.

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 collection. It can also be easily added to trade directories, book sellers’ catalogues and bibliographies, making it easier to distribute. Buyers (individuals, institutions or libraries) also find it easier to order.

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,

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 2 copies of your books once it is printed with the National Library.

Screenshot of NLB Legal Deposit
Screenshot of NLB Legal Deposit

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

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