To receive an ISBN, a self-publishing author, publisher or business must apply to the National ISBN Agency of the country they are operating in. Publishers then must supply the National ISBN Agency with metadata about their publication such as the title, the author and the format as well as full contact details for the publisher. Any other specific forms vary by which National ISBN Agency the publisher is applying to, but the forms are often available online or sent out.
The American National ISBN Agency assigns ISBNs to eligible direct requests from publishers, e-book publishers, software producers, and museums and associations with publishing programs. Receiving an ISBN with non-priority processing may take up to five business days after the initial application is received, while priority processing may take up to two business days. Express processing for receiving an ISBN generally takes only one business day. There is a non-refundable processing service fee associated with receiving any ISBN, and the exact amount is specified on the application. Priority and express processing have additional charges applied.
Once an ISBN has been assigned to a publication, the requester should report it to R.R. Bowker as the database of record for the National ISBN Agency. Publishers are entitled to having free listings of their publication in several directories including Books in Print and The Software Encyclopedia. However, just receiving the ISBN does not guarantee title listings. To ensure listing, publishers need to submit title information.