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How to register ISBN in China

More and more international authors are looking to enter the Chinese literature and press market. Today we will go through some of the differences in the ISBN registration process in China in relation to the West, and what it takes to get your ISBN in China.

ISBN in China: Mainland China Book Registration

Overall, Chinese Book Market Data from 2017 points out that in 2015, publishers sold the rights of 15,458 foreign titles in China. One-third of the rights came from the USA, and 2,802 from the UK. Other important countries include Japan and South Korea.

But when it comes to publishing, one needs to keep in mind that China has information censorship procedures in place. If your book is related to history, reflects any ideology, religion or other sensitive topics, the book will go through an extra detailed censorship process. Thus, the International ISBN will not work in China, and must be replaced by a local ISBN or CSBN (China Standard Book Number).

International ISBN structure

The ISBN is made up of 13 numbers. Among them, “978” stands for books. The middle 9 digits are divided into 3 groups, which represent the group number, the publisher number and the book serial number, and the last digit is the check code.

Example: ISBN 978-7-107-18617-2

If it’s a book, the group number is 7, the publisher number is 107, the book number is 18617, and the check code is 2.

How to register ISBN in China

Chinese ISBN structure

“On 1 January 2007, China updated its China Standard Book Number (CSBN), that had been in use for two decades to align with the latest version of the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) system adopted by over 160 countries worldwide, increasing the digits from 10 to 13.

Readers generally pay little attention to the digits preceded by the ISBN that appear in every book. In fact, the digits represent the unique identification of the book and serves as a pass for its publication and distribution worldwide. Some 700,000 publishers from 166 countries and regions around the world have adopted the ISBN since it was introduced in 1970. China joined the international ISBN agency in 1982 and promulgated the first CSBN in 1986. Since its implementation on 1 January 1987, CSBN has been widely applied to books, audio-visual products and electronic publications. It has played a significant role in the different processes of publishing, distribution and library management, as well as the trading of publications.” – report from the Hong Kong trade development council. 

How to apply for a China mainland ISBN book number

To apply for a mainland ISBN book number, you need to contact the domestic publishing house. The publisher needs you to submit your manuscript for review. After the initial review, you don’t have to worry about anything else. They will tell you how to carry out the step by step operation, which may vary from genre to genre.

At present, only the publication of Chinese books or books in Chinese language, as well as foreign languages translated to Chinese and which pass the censorship ​​is accepted, and books published in foreign languages ​​are not accepted.

Remember, ISBN is not a publishing license.

How to register ISBN in China

What types of publications must have an ISBN:

Books, electronic publications (such as CDs, VCDs, etc.) and mixed media publications.

If you would like to do the ISBN registration yourself, you must do it outside mainland China. But that ISBN number will not be approved by Chinese authorities.

Process in Hong Kong:

Customer documentation

  1. Title and author name;
  2. A manuscript or an introduction to the publication of the book (electronic version);
  3. The completed Hong Kong Press International Standard Book Number (ISBN) application form;
  4. Planned publication date.

Application for approval

  1. Book cover reference style;
  2. Book copyright page reference style;
  3. Book back cover reference style;
  4. International Standard Book Number (ISBN) and barcode;
  5. International Standard Book Number (ISBN) Assignment Notice.


If you go via a Hong Kong publishing agent, the cost should be around 2,000 RMB (around 280 USD)

Note: Excluding tax, if a formal invoice is required, 10% tax will be added; it may include a Hong Kong invoice or receipt.


According to the provisions of the Hong Kong Books Registration Ordinance: the publisher of any new book must, in the future, publish, print, produce or otherwise make the book published in Hong Kong in time for 5 copies of the book to be registered with the book registration body.

How to search for an ISBN in China Mainland

In the Chinese version of the library home page, enter the CIP approval year and word number in the “CIP Core Number Verification” dialog box on the right. For example, “China Version Library CIP Data Verification (2016) ) No. 189798″, then enter “2016189798” and the verification code. Only data from 2003 to the present day can be queried.

If the CIP  number is correct, all the information under the book’s CIP data will be displayed on the left side of the page, which is all the information under the CIP data on the book; if the CIP number is wrong, the query result will be “error”. The number is incorrect. It was 9 before 2000, 9 and 10 coexisted in 2000, and 10 after 2000. Please check.”

What books are Chinese publishing houses interested in?

The most popular genres of foreign and mainland books in China in 2019 are: social sciences, business, non-fiction, children’s books, fantasy.

To get in touch with publishing houses in China please visit the publishers website.

Keep a lookout for the next China Book Fair and come meet the main publishing houses to discuss the chances of your book.

Looking for professional translation services for your upcoming book? We will be happy to answer all of your questions!

How to register ISBN in China

China ISBN Center

The main authority in Chinese publishing world is the China ISBN Center.

The China ISBN Center was established in 1982. In April 2003, according to the transformation and adjustment of government functions, the General Administration of Press and Publication placed the “China ISBN Center” under the management of the Barcode Center of the General Administration of Press and Publication. In May 2010, the Chinese version of the library was linked to the bar code center of the General Administration of Press and Publication, and the director of the Chinese version of the library was also the director of the China ISBN Center.

The main functions of the China ISBN Center are as follows:

  1. Responsible for the revision and implementation of the national standard of China Standard Book Number;


  1. Responsible for the establishment, management and maintenance of national publishers, publication databases and metadata, and regularly compiles and drafts relevant data and work reports submitted to the General Administration of Press and Publication and the International ISBN Center;


  1. Responsible for the registration and management of book publishers, audio-visual publishing units, electronic publishing units and publishers of individual electronic publications, and the issuance and printing of books, audio-visual and electronic publications;


  1. Responsible for the supervision and inspection of the use of Chinese standard book numbers, and regularly submit comprehensive analysis reports;


  1. Responsible for providing technical consultation, information services, and related business training on the use of Chinese standard book numbers to relevant publishing, distribution, library materials and publishing administrative departments;


  1. Representing all domestic publishers in contact with the International ISBN Center;


  1. Responsible for the operation and maintenance of the ISBN business system.


  1. Responsible for the business construction of the ISBN website, the development and utilization of related resources and the maintenance of the website;


  1. Coordinates and solves any problems encountered by the departments of publishing, distribution, books, and intelligence when using the book number.

Want to translate your book? Shoot us a line! 

Stéphane ChouryHow to register ISBN in China

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