How to get an ISBN in Kenya.

Assigning an ISBN number to your book in Kenya

  1. Get an account with the Kenya National Library Service(KNLS)  ISBN service here: ISBN website
  2. Create a Profile, adding important personal details.  Please note we did this as a Publishing Co., (request information if you want to do this as an individual.)
  3. Once  you are set up, click on the ISBN Products.  They offer options of buying 1 ISBN, 10 ISBNs,  100 ISBNs to 1,000 ISBNs.  Choose the number that fits your needs, and make the purchase.  This process is easy, and flexible, you may do it in cash, mobile payment, through the bank, whatever works for you.isbn
  4. Once payment is approved, wait to hear back from KNLS.  They are very fast about this, and you will get a message from them giving you your ISBN numbers, as well as the barcode that goes along with it.
  5. Here is a short guideline of how and when to use your ISBN when you get it and what to do with it once you get it. The ISBN site, sends these guidelines to you once your ISBN is approved.

You may allocate ISBN to the following publications:
– Printed books material
– Microfilms
– Educational video or movies
– Atlases and maps
– Publications in braille
– Electronic publications

ISBN should NOT be allocated to the following publications:
– Off print from periodicals
– Advertising materials (sales catalogs, price lists, prospectus, instructions publishing flyers, etc.)
– Wall posters, newspapers, leaflets
– Programs of theatrical, music and other performances
– List of exhibits without additional text
– Curricula of schools and colleges of all kinds
– Lecture and teaching materials of manuscripts character
– Calendars and diaries
– Form and coloring books

PLEASE ALSO NOTE that ISBN should always appear on the verso of the title page, or if this is not possible at the foot of the title page. It must also appear at the foot of the outside back cover at a prominent outside position.

FINALLY, remember that the BOOKS AND NEWSPAPERS ACT CAP. 111, Laws of Kenya, stipulate that every publisher MUST deposit 2 clean copies of their (new, future and back issues) with the Director, Kenya National Library Service, (National Reference and Bibliographic Dept.). This process begins by filling in details under the “My Publications” section when you log into the ISBN service, and later depositing the copies physically at the National Library for approval. You shall not be allowed to purchase further ISBNs until you complete this process for all issued ISBNs.

Now that you have your ISBN, consider Copyrighting your book with the Kenya Copyright Board

This procedure is for a first time buy, for a second time buy, make sure you have met all their requirements on submitting books to the National Library.

Published by elly in nairobi

Elly writes fiction. Her goal is to have a series of romance novels set in Nairobi. She works at it everyday, and will celebrate when she has reached five books set in the city in the sun.

25 thoughts on “How to get an ISBN in Kenya.

  1. Hi Elly, I found this really helpful , especially as a writer because I’m approaching the stage where I need to get an ISBN code for my book , “The Unaffected Resolve”. The book will be out soon, all 114 pages this time. Your guide makes the whole process that much easier. Thank you for all the support and keep helping out all the other aspiring writers and artists out there!

    1. Hey Humphrey, that’s good news! I’m excited your book is coming out. Yes, get an ISBN for it, and copyright your work, definitely. We need more stuff like yours in the market. I’m excited for you. Cheers.

  2. can I have someone do the submitting of the forms for me? both ISBN and copyright? or it has to be done in person (author)

    1. Sorry for the late reply. The ISBN can be done via the Kenya Library website, and paid through pesapal, mpesa etc. As for the Copyright, the forms are downloaded from the KECOBO website, filled, get a lawyer to sign them, put in the copies of your work and drop them off at the KECOBO office at NHIF building. It’s nice when you do in person. If you have someone you can trust to do these processes for you, then sure, go ahead. You grant them the right to act on your behalf. I don’t think it is a problem.

    1. Hi, congrats on applying for an ISBN. I wonder if there is a step you missed on the ISBN platform. It’s always so straightforward. They email your ISBN barcode to the email you have signed up on the website. If its not in your inbox, you can check your spam folder. Alternatively, retrace the steps on the website to make sure you didn’t miss any part.

  3. Hi Elly. Thanks for this informative piece. My mother applied for an ISBN number, and got one, through someone who claimed to be a publisher but we later found out is not. When she confronted him about the lies he got hostile and is now refusing to cooperate so that we can finish the process i.e filling the form under the my publications section and delivering the same together with 2 copies of the book to the director Kenya National Library Service, (National Reference and Bibliographic Dept. We need his password to log into his account that he used to apply in order to do this.
    Is there a way in which we can cancel that ISBN number(if at all) and apply for a new one seeing that the process cannot be completed and we can not get future ISBN Numbers if this process is not completed?
    How can we proceed?

    1. 1. My mother applied for an ISBN number, and got one, through someone who claimed to be a publisher but we later found out is not.
      – Alright, this part, did you provide this individual with the name of your publication ? Does he have access to your content? If No, then he simply has an isbn number and you can get another one. If Yes, then this becomes a legal issue that might require a lawyer.

      2. We need his password to log into his account that he used to apply in order to do this.
      – This is dependent on whether he has the name of your publication. ISBNs are purchased and then the name of the publication is assigned to the isbn when the publication is complete. If he does not have your publication name and/or content, then you don’t need to engage him anymore.

      3. Is there a way in which we can cancel that ISBN number(if at all) and apply for a new one seeing that the process cannot be completed and we can not get future ISBN Numbers if this process is not completed?
      – If this individual has no access to your content, then start a fresh. The ISBN website is open to you to register. Your Mother as the author can also take on the role of publisher. Fill in the information into the site, and the site will guide you on what to do to qualify as a publisher. After that, purchase a new isbn and continue the process. If you’re not confident in the website, you can also visit the Kenya Library at community, third floor is where they do ISBN registrations on site. Have a talk with the librarian in charge and she/he will get you going on the process.

      4. How can we proceed?
      – I will recommend that you stop by the Copyright offices and copyright your completed work. Please note that this is dependent on how far you got with the individual in question. If he has no access to your work, then you can simply start the process a fresh, and do the ISBN registrations yourselves. If he does have access and has assigned the ISBN number to your publication title, visit the Kenya Library, confirm that the work has gotten an ISBN number, if yes, then talk to the librarian on what to do next. You can also engage a lawyer to help protect your copyright claim on the publication.

      Alternatively, you can change the name of the book and assign it an ISBN that you’ve purchased and copyright it with KECOBO.
      Do let me know how it goes. I hope I have been of help to you, Faith.

  4. Dear Elly,

    Thank you for your response. Unfortunately, he does have access to the work(Content and title too) and the ISBN number has already been assigned to the publication. So i guess i have to visit KNL to get a way forward as advised. I have already started the copyright process though. But can i complete the process by login into MY ISBN account and filling the form under my publications section? Or must he do it now that the ISBN number has already been assigned to the publication and reflects as such on his account?
    And if for instance we manage to get his password and username and complete the process, can he claim publication rights/part of the proceeds made from the book?

    1. – Can he claim publication rights/part of the proceeds made from the book?
      Copyrights remain with the originator of content, unless explicitly given or sold away. If he is not the originator of the content, and the original author has proof of this, then he has no rights. Once you copyright the work, then he has to pay you royalties for any content sold by him. If there was an agreement that allowed him publication of the book, please contact a lawyer to help you decide what to do next in regards to that agreement.

      – Can i complete the process by login into MY ISBN account and filling the form under my publications section? Or must he do it now that the ISBN number has already been assigned to the publication and reflects as such on his account?
      He must do it now, if it is under his account and the title is already assigned. Please do visit the Kenya Library for the way forward in regards to access to that isbn number. If you want to give the book a second ISBN, you might need to talk to the librarians and explain your situation. If it is possible, please get a clear answer from this person on his stance on your title’s isbn as well.

      I wish you good luck.

    1. Hi Gad,
      ISBNs are international. They are merely assigned locally. Since there is a step in the Kenyan ISBN applications that requires a physical copy dropped off at the actual Kenyan Library, maybe you can try to get one in Burundi. The Burundi National Library should have this service available. If not, then try out the platform in Kenya, and find a way to get your physical copy to the Kenya National Library. You may also email the library for more information on your options.

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