All about ISSN
What is an ISSN ?
International Standard Serial Number
The ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is an eight-digit number which identifies periodical publications as such, including electronic serials.
The ISSN is a numeric code which is used as an identifier: it has no signification in itself and does not contain in itself any information referring to the origin or contents of the publication.
The ISSN takes the form of the acronym ISSN followed by two groups of four digits, separated by a hyphen. The eighth character is a control digit calculated according to a modulo 11 algorithm on the basis of the 7 preceding digits; this eighth control character may be an "X" if the result of the computing is equal to "10", in order to avoid any ambiguity.
The ISSN is linked to a standardized form of the title of the identified serial, known as the "key title", which repeats the title of the publication, qualifying it with additional elements in order to distinguish it from other publications having identical titles.
If the title of the publication changes in any significant way, a new ISSN must be assigned in order to correspond to this new form of title and avoid any confusion. A serial publication whose title is modified several times in the course of its existence will be assigned each time a new ISSN, thus allowing precise identification of each form of the title : in fact it is then considered that they are different publications even if there is a logical link between them.
Contrary to other types of publications, the world of serial publications is particularly changeable and complex : the lifetime of a title may be extremely short; many publications may be part of a complex set of relationships, etc. These particularities themselves necessitated the introduction of the ISSN.
What is a "serial publication"?
A precise definition, which allows agreement on the exact field of application of the ISSN can be found in the IS0 3297 standard (ISSN): "A publication, in any medium, issued in successive parts, usually having numerical or chronological designations and intended to be continued with no predetermined end. NOTE : this definition excludes works intended to be published in a finite number of parts.(...) The ISSN is applicable to the entire population of serials, whether past, present or to be published in the foreseeable future. Serials include periodicals, newspapers, annuals (reports, yearbooks, directories, etc.), the journals, series, memoirs, proceedings, transactions, etc. of societies."
Are ISSN assigned to electronic publications?
Yes, ISSN are assigned to electronic publications as far as they are serials or other continuing resources. However commercial web sites, personal weblogs and web pages, web pages which contain only links to other URLs are not eligible for ISSN. For more information, click here.
Is the ISSN free of charge?
ISSN assignment is FREE OF CHARGE.
When should an ISSN be changed ?
A new ISSN is assigned when the title of the publication is changed. All other possible changes are not taken into account (change of publisher, place of publication, frequency, editorial policy...). However, all mergers with other serials, supplements, other editions etc. should be submitted to the relevant ISSN Centre which may decide that separate ISSN are needed. A new ISSN is assigned when a title changes because the basis of the ISSN system is the pair ISSN key/title, both unique. If the same ISSN was to be retained, attached to several titles, ambiguity would crop up again. A new ISSN is also assigned when the medium of the publication chage (for instance a printed publication becomes an electronic publication).
Is it possible to obtain an ISSN number before the publication of the first issue of a new serial?
This is called a pre-publication assignment. However the publisher should provide all the possible information together with his ISSN request. He should also send to the ISSN Centre concerned a sample issue or copy of the cover, editorial page (name and address of the publisher) and masthead, as appropriate, once the first issue has been published.
Is it possible to obtain an ISSN electronically (by e-mail, through the World Wide Web...) ?
Yes, but the publisher should first check whether his ISSN Centre has an e-mail or Web address. All requests sent to the ISSN International Centre through its electronic address or Web form will be forwarded, if necessary, to the relevant National Centre by e-mail or normal mail according to the technical facilities available. Publishers should be aware that if their publication is not online, a suitable representation of the publication will be requested and should be sent by fax or normal mail.
What is the difference between ISSN and ISBN?
ISSN are assigned to serial publications; ISBN are assigned to monographs ("books"). An ISSN can be assigned to a series of monographs as such; and an ISBN will be assigned to each separate book of the series.
Can the ISSN be used to create bar-code?
Yes, the ISSN is used as the identification code by EAN 13, the major bar-coding symbology used in commercial distribution throughout the world. For more information, click here.
How can I find whether there is an ISSN National Centre in my country?
The document ISSN National Centres displays the name and address of all the ISSN National Centres worldwide. If your country is not listed, you should contact the International Centre in Paris .
Is a new ISSN requested for each issue of a publication?
No, the ISSN identifies the serial publication as such and is changed only if there is a change in the title of the publication.
Where and how should the ISSN be printed?
On a printed serial, the preferred location for printing the ISSN is on the upper right-hand corner of the cover. It should always be preceded by the letters ISSN. Other good locations are the masthead area, the copyright page, or in the publishing statement where information about the publisher, frequency, and other publication facts are given. On a non-print serial, the ISSN should be displayed, if possible, on an internal source, such as on a title screen or home page. Other suggested locations on non-print serials are on external sources such as microfiche headers, cassette or disc labels, or other containers. If a publication has both an ISSN and an ISBN, each should be printed.
Is the ISSN mandatory?
In certain countries, all serial publications covered by legal deposit must have an ISSN. ISSN are automatically assigned and publishers should ensure that it is printed on each issue.
Are different ISSN numbers assigned for the different versions of a publication (paper, online, floppy disk, CD-ROM, microform...)?
Yes, each separate edition on a different medium should have its own ISSN, even if the title is identical. Only reproductions issued as substitutes to the original retain the same ISSN.
Is the title of a publication copyrighted if it has been assigned an ISSN?
No, several serial publications can have similar or identical titles. However, ISSN numbers are used by reproducing rights agencies in several countries for the management of their systems of copyright fees and royalties levied for the photocopying or electrocopying of articles published in serial publications.
Does ISSN guarantee the quality of serials and other continuing resources?
When a publication (print or electronic, scholarly or non scholarly) is assigned an ISSN, it means that it is a continuing resource according to the ISSN criteria (a serial, a website etc). ISSN does not provide any guarantee as to the content of that resource, or any evaluation of its content, and does not provide evidence of its validity. Please also note that ISSN may be assigned prior to the publication (or issuing) of a resource (see above).