ISSN and electronic publications
ISSN in the digital environment
ISSN are assigned since the 1970s and universally accepted within the print publishing world as a means of identifying the serials. Changes in the editorial practices linked to the development of Internet and of the digital technologies led the ISSN to evolve and to extend its scope to the whole continuing resources (i.e “publications that are issued over time with no predetermined conclusion” [i]) whatever their physical medium.
Consequently, and from the end of the 1990s, ISSN are also assigned to electronic serials (online, CD-ROM, DVD…) and to electronic “ongoing integrating resources” ( ie “continuing resources that are added to or changed by means of updates that do not remain discrete and are integrated into the whole, and has no predetermined conclusion” [ii]) such as websites and databases.
Recorded in the ISSN Register, ISSN offer the most efficient way to find and access to electronic publications through the URL addresses included in the ISSN records. Moreover, bibliographic links such as “Titles on other media” enable the ISSN users to check immediately whether the electronic resources are published on other media (print for instance) which are also registered with their own ISSN.
In January 2011, around 100 000 electronic publications (88 000 online) are identified with an ISSN number in the ISSN Register.
Criteria for the assignment of ISSN to electronic serials (online, CD-ROM, DVD…)
According to the basic ISSN rules, all the publications which comply with the definition of a serial (i.e “continuing resource issued in a succession of discrete issues or parts, usually bearing numbering, that has no predetermined conclusion” [iii]) are eligible for ISSN assignment whatever their physical medium.
Criteria for the assignment of ISSN to websites, databases, wikis and other ongoing integrating resources
The resources which comply with the definition of an ongoing integrating resource (i.e “continuing resource that are added to or changed by means of updates that do not remain discrete and are integrated into the whole, and has no predetermined conclusion” [iv]) are eligible for an ISSN if they fulfill all the criteria hereafter (meeting only one of the criteria is not sufficient to make a resource eligible for an ISSN).
The form of the resource is not relevant. These criteria apply to databases, websites, wikis, print loose-leaf services and other ongoing integrating resources. Although blogs are considered to be serials, these same criteria should be applied to blogs.
Note: if a part of an ongoing integrating resource (website for instance) is deemed to be eligible for ISSN assignment, this does not mean that the whole website is eligible – the website in itself is not necessarily eligible.
1. there is an editorial content (i.e. the resource mostly consists of written, textual content, and there is an evidence of editorial or journalistic treatment ) [v],
2. there is an identified editorial responsibility (i.e. a statement indicating the name of the
publisher / producer, and at least the country of publication. Generally, editorial responsibility will consist of more than one individual),
3. there is a consistent title (i.e. a title which remains consistent when the resource is updated) and the title is easily findable in the resource,
4. there is a valid URL (i.e. an URL leading to the actual resource),
5. the resource has a subject-related content or has an identified subject-related audience.
1. personal resources (personal web sites and web pages, online diaries),
2. resources focusing on a company, a product, an institution or organization
(advertising and promotional web sites, commercial web sites, product information web sites, company and institutional web sites, web sites of organizations),
3. ephemeral resources (i.e. resources known to be ephemeral),
4. continuing resources of purely local interest may be excluded from systematic registration
How to apply ?
Click here to apply for an ISSN.
Frequently Asked Questions
The print version of my publication is already assigned. Should I request a distinct ISSN for the online version ?
Yes, each separate edition (print, online, CD-ROM…) on a different medium should have its own ISSN, the title being identical or not.
I publish an online serial which is available both in PDF and HTML formats. Should I request a distinct ISSN for each format ?
No, the same ISSN can be used for different file formats (HTML, PDF, etc) of the same online publication.
I publish a print serial with a CD-ROM version included. Should I request one ISSN for the print serial and one ISSN for the CD-ROM version ?
No, according to the ISSN rules, it is a multiple physical format publication: only one ISSN will be assigned.
Is it possible to obtain an ISSN number before the publication of the first issue of a new online serial or prior the launch of a website ?
Yes, this is called a pre-publication assignment. However the publisher should provide all the possible information together with his ISSN request.
How many months prior the publication (or prior the launch) can I request a pre-publication assignment?
The request should not be sent more than 6 months prior the publication of the first issue or the launch of the website.
Displaying the ISSN on electronic publications
On electronic publications, the ISSN shall appear on the title screen or, in the absence of a title screen, on the main menu, and, if applicable, on any labels permanently affixed to the publication.
If it is not possible to display the ISSN on the item or its label, the ISSN shall be displayed on the container.
When continuing resources are published in different media (print and online for instance), and different ISSN and key titles are assigned, the related ISSN may also be displayed in the continuing resources, each with additional, distinguishing information, as follows:
ISSN 1562-6865 (Online)
ISSN 1063-7710 (Print)
Online edition: ISSN 1562-6865
Print edition: ISSN 1063-7710
[i] taken from ISSN ISO 3297
[v] Examples of resources without editorial content include, but are not limited to, computer games, music portals, calendars, programs of an event, photo galleries, web sites consisting exclusively of links.