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How to Apply for International Standard Book Number (ISBN) in Kenya

To apply for ISBN, the applicant has to contact the Kenya National Library Service offices. The applicant has to make sure he or she has all the required documents that are required for this process to be successful and it can be found under the “Required Documents” section of this page.


Online application

To apply for ISBN online, the applicant has to use the ISBN manager.

ISBN manager is targeted at publishers – both individual and institutional – to automate the process ordering and paying for ISBNs

The applicant should:

  • Log in if he/she already has an account or sign up to create an account.
  • Place your order for any number of unique ISBNs for your upcoming publications. The applicant has to make sure he or she meet all the requirements and has all the required documents that are required for this process to be successful and it can be found under the “Required Documents” section of this page.
  • Pay for your orders online using a variety of online payment platforms
  • Kenya National Library staff members that administer the ISBN agency will review your order and send over the ISBNs ordered.

Manual application at KNLS

  • To apply for ISBN, the applicant has to contact the Kenya National Library Service offices.
  • The applicant has to make sure he or she has all the required documents that are required for this process to be successful and it can be found under the “Required Documents” section of this page.
  • Payment of appropriate fees should be made and that can be found under the “Fees” section of this page or at KNLS Fees & Pricing page.
  • On Completion of this process, the applicant after meeting all the requirements will be issued an International Standard Book Number (ISBN).

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Required Documents

  • Copy of certificate of business administration
  • Title page & copyright pages of the new publication
  • Duly completed application form
  • Profile of the publisher
  • I D card

Office Locations & Contacts

Kenya National Library Service Head Office

Mumias Road/Ol Donyo Sabuk Road Junction,

P.O. Box 30573 – 00100

Nairobi, Kenya

Phone: +254 20 2158352 / 7786710

Fax: +254 20 2721749



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Must be Kenyan publishers.


  • 1 number – Ksh. 1,500.
  • 10 numbers – Ksh. 10,000.
  • 100 numbers – Ksh. 50,000.
  • 1,000 numbers – Ksh. 100,000

Processing Time

2 -5 minutes after meeting all the requirements.


The national library is the sole agency in Kenya with the mandate to issue the International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) to Kenyan Publishers. ISBN is a unique identification number assigned to each title of publications. Publishers who require issuance of ISBN can contact the National library division at the Kenya National Library Services offices in Community area.

If you are a new publisher, you should apply for your own ISBN publisher prefix and plan to identify and circulate your books properly in the industry supply chain.

Some examples of types of monographic publications to which an ISBN can be assigned are:

  • Printed books and pamphlets
  • Braille publications
  • Publications that are not intended by the publisher to be updated regularly or continued indefinitely
  • Individual articles2 or issues of a particular continuing resource (but not the continuing resource in its entirely)
  • Maps
  • Educational/instructional films, videos and transparencies
  • Audio books on cassette, or CD, or DVD (talking books)
  • Electronic publications either on physical carries (such as machine readable tapes, diskettes, or CD-ROMs) or on the Internet
  • Digitized copies of print monographic publications
  • Microform publications
  • Educational or instructional software
  • Mixed media publications (where the principal constituent is text-based)

Required Information

  • Profile of the publisher
  • Title page & copyright pages of the new publication

Need for the Document

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 10-digit number that uniquely identifies books and book-like products published internationally.

The purpose of the ISBN is to establish and identify one title or edition of a title from one specific publisher and is unique to that edition, allowing for more efficient marketing of products by booksellers, libraries, universities, wholesalers and distributors.

The National Library Section is mandated to assign the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) to Kenyan Publishers. The National Library is a national agency for the International Standard Book Numbering system.

Recognized in more than 160 countries throughout the world, the International Standard Book Number is short and clear identifier that is potentially machine-readable. The ISBN denotes a particular monographic publication uniquely and should, therefore, be associated with it from early production stages. An essential instrument in production, distribution, sales analysis, and bibliographic data storage systems in the book trade, ISBN is also of vital importance to library information management.

Information which might help

ISBN is assigned to monographic publications and certain types of related products that are available to the public, whether those publications and related products are available on a gratis basis or to purchase. In addition, individual sections (such as chapters) of monographic publications or issues or articles of continuing resources that are made available separately may also use the ISBN as an identifier. With regard to the various media available, it is of no importance in what physical form the content is documented and distributed; however, each product form should be identified separately.

External Links

International Standard Book Number (ISBN)

Citizen Service Delivery Charter


There are over 160 ISBN Agencies worldwide, and each ISBN Agency is appointed as the exclusive agent responsible for assigning ISBNs to publishers residing in their country or geographic territory. Kenya National Library Services assigns ISBNs to Kenyan publishers.

Once an ISBN publisher prefix and associated block of numbers has been assigned to a publisher by the ISBN Agency, the publisher can assign ISBNs to publications it holds publishing rights to. However, after the ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs to a publisher, that publisher cannot resell, re-assign, transfer, or split its list of ISBNs among other publishers. These guidelines have long been established to ensure the veracity, accuracy and continued utility of the international ISBN standard.

As defined by the ISO Standard, the ISBN publisher prefix (or “root” of the ISBN) identifies a single publisher. If a second publisher subsequently obtains an ISBN from the assigned publisher’s block of ISBNs, there will be no change in the publisher of record for any ISBN in the block as originally assigned. Therefore, searches of industry databases for that re-assigned ISBN will identify the original owner of that assigned prefix as the publisher rather than the second publisher. Discovering this consequence too late can lead to extensive costs in applying for a new prefix, re-assigning a new ISBN, and potentially leading to the application of stickers to books already printed and in circulation.

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