International Identifier for serials
and other continuing resources, in the electronic and print world

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The ISSN for electronic media

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An ISSN can be assigned to all electronic resources: CD-Roms, DVDs, websites, etc. Depending on their types, these resources must meet specific criteria.

  • Electronic publications: online newspapers, CD-Roms, DVDs, etc.
  • “Ongoing integrating resources”: websites, databases, wikis, etc.
  • How should an ISSN be displayed on electronic publications?
  • Applying for an ISSN for an electronic publication

Electronic publications: online newspapers, CD-Roms, DVDs, etc.

If and when your electronic publication satisfies the definition of a serial publication, it can be identified by an ISSN, irrespective of its physical medium.

If your electronic publication is a version of an existing printed publication, it must have its own ISSN, even if the title is identical.

The same ISSN must be used irrespective of the formats your publication is distributed in (HTML, PDF, etc.).

If your print publication includes a CD-Rom version, it is a “multi-media” publication: only one ISSN is assigned.

“Ongoing integrating resources”: websites, databases, wikis, etc.

As an “ongoing integrating resource,” your website, database, wiki or blog can have an ISSN, under certain conditions.

To be identified by an ISSN, your ongoing integrating resource must:

  • present editorial content (written text),
  • mention the editorial responsibility, comprised generally of more than one person (name of the editor or publisher) and, as a minimum, the country of publication,
  • have a title that can be easily identified and doesn’t change when updated,
  • have a valid URL address,
  • cover a precise subject or address a specific target audience.

Your ongoing integrating resource cannot obtain an ISSN if:

  • it contains personal content: personal website, online personal diary, etc.
  • it constitutes a short-lived resource, whose end is determined from its conception
  • it is focused on a company, product, institution or organisation:
    • advertising, commercial or promotional website,
    • information site for one or more products,
    • corporate / institutional and community website.

If your ongoing integrating resource is of an exclusively local interest, it will not be identified systematically by an ISSN: consult with your ISSN National Centre, which will determine whether an ISSN should be assigned to it.

How should an ISSN be displayed on electronic publications?

Online publications (websites, blogs, wikis, databases, etc.)

The ISSN should be shown on the homepage or, failing that, on the main menu.

Physical media (CD-Roms, DVDs, microfiches, etc.):

The ISSN should be shown on any label that is attached permanently to the publication.
If this is impossible, it should be displayed on the box or case.

Multiple ISSN

If you publish the same publication on different media (e.g.; print version and CD-Rom version), you can show their respective ISSN on each version, by mentioning the additional items of information that can be used to distinguish them.

For example:
ISSN 1562-6865 (Online)
ISSN 1063-7710 (Print)

or:

Online publication: ISSN 1562-6865
Print publication: ISSN 1063-7710

Applying for an ISSN for an electronic publication

The procedures for applying for an ISSN are the same for all publications (refer to the details).

The required supporting documents may vary according to the medium.

As for a print publication or a publication on CD-Rom, you can apply for an ISSN up to 3 months before a publication is released, if the information and documents you provide demonstrate that the project is sufficiently advanced.

Please note that online ressources are usually not ISSN assigned ahead of publication.

The assigned ISSN is only duly registered in the ISSN International Register once the first issue is received.

The ISSN in the digital age
With the development of the Internet and digital technologies, ISSN are assigned to CD-Roms, DVDs, online newspapers, websites, databases, etc.
Not only do they identify electronic publications, they also make it easier to access them via the URLs registered in the ISSN records.
Furthermore, bibliographic links such as “publication(s) on other media” are used to verify immediately whether the electronic publications are published on other media (e.g.; print).
Serial publication – definition
A serial publication is an unfinished set of documents, published successively under the same title, for an undetermined period of time.
The standard ISO 3297 defines it as a publication, in any medium, issued in successive parts, usually having numerical or chronological designations and intended to be continued with no predetermined end.
What is an ongoing integrating resource?
An ongoing integrating resource is a non-fixed resource: it can be updated at any time by adding information or by replacing obsolete information with new information.
It is defined by ISO 3297-2007 as a continuing resource that is completed by updates integrated into the body of the work.
Did you know?
In December 2012, approximately 116,000 electronic publications (including 113,000 online) were identified in the ISSN International Register.