Legal Deposit Libraries

What are they?

The old British Library: Hewitt

When you publish a book you are usually required to send a copy (or number of copies) to your national library/repository. The rules on this vary between countries. Wikipedia provide a helpful list of legal deposit rules per country, here.

Below are instructions for the UK.

Print Books

Technically, you’re legally obliged to send a free copy of your print book to the British Library within one month of publication. The address is:

Legal Deposit Office
The British Library
Boston Spa
LS23 7BY

It’s a common misconception that you only need to do this if you purchased an ISBN. In fact, simply printing your book and making it available to the public is enough to activate the legal requirement. In reality, there are thousands of self-publishers ignoring this rule and I’ve never heard of any of them suffering the slightest consequence.

If you’re publishing via an all-in-one package provider, they usually deal with legal deposits for you but do check this.

If publishing with Lulu, CreateSpace or another similar company then the situation is complicated. Legal deposits are usually the publisher’s, not the author’s, responsibility. Technically, the publisher is CreateSpace/Lulu. However, in a case like this, The British Library requests that the author themselves send a print copy of their work, along with their address so that a receipt can be issued. It doesn’t matter that CreateSpace/Lulu is the publisher of record or that their headquarters are in the United States. In a recent email, The British Library confirmed with me that books published in this way still fell ‘within the criteria of the Copyright Act of 2003, which basically states that anything that is distributed in the UK, regardless of where it is published/printed, is liable for deposit.’

In addition to the British Library, there are a number of other legal deposit libraries including Oxford’s Bodleian, Cambridge’s University Library and one each for Scotland, Ireland and Wales. You’re not legally required to send these a copy of your book unless requested to do so. This is unlikely to happen unless you really hit the big time!

To find out more about legal deposits in the UK, go to


The British Library only needs your work in one format and currently prefers that to be print. Therefore, if you’ve already sent a copy of your print book, you don’t have to provide an eBook as well.

If you’re only producing an eBook then, technically, they will require a copy of it. However, according to their website, they’re the ones who’ll get in touch with you to discuss transfer. This gives you the green light to basically sit tight and do nothing. In the unlikely event they do contact you, you must, of course, comply. For further information, visit:


Next time: The Three Routes to Print Book Production


2 thoughts on “Legal Deposit Libraries

  1. I have a friend who has self published a number of successful novels, due in no small part to Rachel’s advice and information, and she had no idea about this. She is now packing her novels off to the British Library this week! So thank you very much, yet again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hope I didn’t cause any alarm. It’s highly unlikely that any action would ever be taken. I’ve seriously never heard of the slightest consequence to anyone who hasn’t sent a copy. The British Library wouldn’t even know they didn’t have the book unless someone requested it and then, most likely, the only thing they’d do is ask the author and/or publisher to send one.

    Glad she’s sent them, though. I think it’s quite a nice thing to do. I rather like the idea of my book sitting in the British Library along with all the wonderful books I’ve enjoyed over the years. Plus, if she’s sent them she can add the rather fabulous phrase ‘A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library,’ to her copyright page 😉


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