CIP, LCCN, PCN, PCIP – what are they and does the indie author really need them? (Part I)

There is a great deal of misinformation and misunderstanding about what Cataloguing in Publication (CIP) entails, what is or is not conferred by a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN), the nature of the Library of Congress’s Preassigned Control Number Program (PCN), and the for-profit Publisher Cataloguing in Publication (PCIP) services offered by freelance cataloguers. Worse still is the myth that the author whose book does not contain CIP data or a coveted LCCN cannot sell their books to libraries. This is simply untrue: all that a CIP data block does is reduce the workload of a cataloging librarian; the absence of a CIP block or an LCCN in no way prevents a library from buying your book and putting it into circulation. And in the United States, self-published authors are barred from the Library of Congress’s CIP program anyway, rendering an LCCN essentially useless. In this four-part series on CIP, LCCNs, PCNs, and PCIPs, I take you through each program and debunk the myths that surround them.

CIPCataloguing (or Cataloging) in Publication

Cataloguing (or Cataloging) in Publication is a service offered by national libraries (or their designated agents) whereby a bibliographic record is created prior to publication and disseminated to libraries and booksellers, who use it to plan purchases ahead of publication and then to confirm their purchase when they receive the book. (An author must therefore acquire CIP data ahead of publication.) The book’s bibliographic data is then added to the library’s catalogue, saving the cataloguing librarian the work otherwise necessary to put the book into circulation. In many countries it is standard practice to add the data block to your book’s copyright page, while in others it is optional. In the UK, for example, many publishers elect only to print “British Library Cataloguing in Production Data. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.”

Each national issuing agency has its own rules as to what information it includes in what is called the CIP data block, though there is now a new standard called Resource Description and Access (RDA), and many national literary agencies have adopted it. The standard data block now contains:

1. The name of the issuing agency.
2. The Main Entry: the name and year of birth of the first contributor named on the title page, and their credit; anyone searching CIP records is able to search by the name of any other creator included on the title page.
3. Title Statement: the name of the book, all in lowercase except for the first word and any proper nouns;
4. the name of the first creator and any other creators; and the edition number if applicable.
5. Statement of bibliographic references and/or indices, if applicable.
6. Statement of issued formats, if applicable.
7. Each format of the book and its ISBN.
8. Subject headings, indicated by Arabic numerals.
9. Additional headings, indicated by Roman numerals. All books are assigned at least one additional heading—“Title”—and additional headings are often used when a book has been produced by, for example, an organization or government agency, who themselves may be the subject of other books. For example: I. Editor’s Association of America. II. Title.
10. The Library of Congress classification number, which is the classification number used by the Library’s cataloguing system and also by many research and academic institutions, and is an alternative to the Dewey decimal system, which is used by public libraries.
11. The Dewey decimal classification number.
12. The national control number(s) of the CIP record(s). If you publish in more than one format, separate records are produced for each format but are now integrated into a single CIP data block. Anyone searching the records, however, will still see separate records for, for example, the print and electronic versions of your book. Each country refers to its control number by a different name: for example, in the United States the national control number is called the Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN); in Canada it is called the Canadiana Number.


CIP data is specific to the book it catalogues; you cannot reuse the same data block for subsequent editions of your book.

Similarly, if you publish first to paperback and receive CIP for that book, then later decide to publish to ebook, you cannot use the CIP data from your paperback in your ebook; you must publish the ebook without the data block included or you must inform the issuing agency of the new format. The agency will amend their CIP record to include the new format and issue you the amended data block for your ebook.

The purpose of issuing CIP data is to make it easier for libraries to put the book into circulation and to encourage consistency of cataloguing across libraries.

Without CIP data, cataloguing librarians have to do the work themselves to determine a book’s subject headings and classification numbers. Consequently, most publishers only apply for CIP for the first publication of a book (usually the hardcover) since librarians can use the subject headings and classification numbers of the first format to catalogue subsequent formats. If you browse through your local bookstore or library you will see most books do not contain CIP data.

Not all national agencies will produce CIP records for self-published books—in the U.S., self-publishers are barred from the CIP program—and not all types of books are eligible.

Check with your national library before applying. (In the U.S., authors can apply for a possible CIP record through the Preassigned Control Number Program or can pay a freelancer to create a Publisher’s Cataloging in Publication data block. The PCN program is really not necessary, and freelance PCIP blocks are a bit of a scam. These are discussed in parts II and IV of this series.)

If you receive CIP data, you are legally required to send in copies of your book to the issuing agency (this is called Legal Deposit), who then add to the CIP record further data such as the number of pages in the book and its physical dimensions.

This additional data is not placed in the book; it merely appears in the record when anyone searches the database. Similarly, when you apply for CIP you input the names, full date of birth, and nationality of the contributors; this data does not form part of the block but can be added to other databases such as the Virtual International Authority File.

As I stated in the introduction, a CIP record is not actually necessary in order for you to sell your book to a library. We discuss the reasons for this in Part III. But first, to Part II.

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