Free ISBN support for South African Writers 📝

🛑 Woooah! PULL UP A SEAT…Lets have a quick family meeting

First. A quick bit about what is application is for. This free service is shaped specially for South African authors to apply for and receive a 13 digit ISBN number. This unique ISBN number then normally needs to find its way both onto a book’s back cover with a barcode as well as the Copyright page in your book’s front matter.

Second. Before being tempted to click that submit button, there are a few things every author should know.

  • Copies of your physical book need to be posted to the NLSA Legal deposits once printed 📚✉
  • Only one application per author at a time. Your second ISBN application will only be accepted by the National Library once copies of any previous books have been couriered to and acknowledged by the NLSA.
  • Don’t duplicate the application with us. If you’ve already applied for your ISBN with the National Library, rather follow up with them. Pretty please 🥺
  • South African authors only. You will need to be able to provide valid South African address and contact details.
  • Spelling spelling spelling. Spelling your email address badly means you will never receive our replies 😢
  • Allow at least 14 days for your application to be processed ⏳
  • We are not affiliated with the National Library of South Africa (NLSA) in anyway. We are a author-loving bunch of introverts who survive on and scraps of food thrown to us. If you would like to say thanks, read how in our FAQs below. 🎁
Free ISBN application for South African authors

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The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a 13-digit number that uniquely identifies books published internationally.

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

Every ISBN consists of thirteen digits. The thirteen-digit number is divided into four parts of variable length, each part separated by a dash.

Here is an example ISBN = 978-1-990966-33-0

The four parts of an ISBN are as follows:


      1. Group or country identifier which identifies a national or geographic grouping of publishers
      2. Publisher identifier which identifies a particular publisher within a group
      3. Title identifier which identifies a particular title or edition of a title
      4. Check digit is the single digit at the end of the ISBN which validates the ISBN.

You will need an ISBN number for each format of the book you plan to publish. Here are examples of the different formats of the book that will each require a unique ISBN #


    • Paperback
    • eBook (ePUB)
    • Audiobook.

No. Obtaining an ISBN does not unfortunately confer protection to your writing.

Don’t be sad however as certain countries, including South Africa are signatory to the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works. This means that the copyright of your story is automatic as soon you click that “Save” button in Microsoft Word and does not require official registration as an author might do in the US. Yay 😊

ISBN numbers vary in cost depending on which country you live in. Here at MYeBook we are happy to help you apply for and obtain your ISBN number, free of charge. This offer unfortunately applies only to South African authors.


    • Authors in the US can buy a single ISBN from Bowker. This starts from $10, excluding the matching barcode
    • Authors in the UK can buy their ISBN from Nielsen here. Single ISBN starting from £89.00.

Authors from other countries can find their local issuing authority by visiting the following page on ISBN Agencies.

New ISBN applications we receive take a minimum of 14 days. We unfortunately can’t speed this up as South African ISBN numbers are manually issued by our National Library – no fancy automation yet.

Yup. For reals.

Once your new ISBN has been added to all the right places on your book’s back cover and copyright page you are ready to go to the printers. Once you have your first batch of books from the printers the NLSA (National Library of SA) will require you to courier copies to the various legal deposits – depending on the quantity of books you printed.

If you don’t send copies of your book to the legal deposits, the NLSA reserves the right to withhold any ISBNs from your future ISBN applications.

The most common reason our National Library will reject your ISBN application is that you had a previous application where copies of your book were not shared with required legal deposits.

Here is a list of legal deposit libraries within South Africa.

If you are printing less than 100 copies, just post a single copy to the National Library in Pretoria. If you plan on printing more than 100 copies, a single copy of your book should be posted to each of the five legal deposit locations

For print on demand books, just a single copy can be sent to the National Library branch in Pretoria.

The NLSA will still need a copy of your (ePUB) eBook for their records. Instead of needing to courier a copy thankfully, it can be emailed. (legaldeposit[at]nlsa[dot]ac[dot]za)

If your book is revised and changes by at least 20% or greater you are required to apply for a new ISBN. An ISBN can never be reused or reassigned.

You will find an ISBN is printed on the lower portion of the back cover of a printed book together with a barcode. It can also usually be found on the copyright page.

Yup. Each language is considered a different product.

An ISBN is just a number. A barcode is the pictorial representation of that number making it easier to scan.

Our favourite free tool to generate a matching barcode for your newly acquired ISBN can be found using this link here. This new barcode should then be added to your book’s back cover.

Nope. An ISBN will not be needed.

No. For authors publishing their eBook through Amazon, ISBNs are entirely optional and will be of no benefit.

Yup. For the paperback version sold through Amazon an ISBN will still be needed. The great news is that the Amazon platform will issue you a free ISBN immediately for your paperback. 

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