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

Identification with the EAN 13 barcode




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As an identifier, the ISSN is used as part of the EAN 13 barcode.

  • What is the EAN 13 barcode?
  • Structure of the EAN 13 barcode for serial publications
  • Calculate an EAN 13 code
  • Create the image of an EAN 13 code

What is the EAN 13 barcode?

The EAN 13 code is comprised of 13 digits. It is the most widely used commercial distribution code in the world.
It is shown on all marketed products.
GS1, an international agency located in Brussels, manages it internationally.

Structure of the EAN 13 barcode for serial publications

For serial publications, the EAN 13 barcode is structured as follows:

  • the first 3 digits correspond to the 977 prefix assigned to serial publications,
  • the next 7 digits correspond to the ISSN (without the hyphen and without the end check digit),
  • The 11th and 12th characters are variable and the publisher can use them to express additional information (e.g.; change of price), and
  • the 13th character is a check digit calculated according to the modulo 10 formula.

To calculate or verify it, you can use the simulator on the GS1 website.


The EAN 13 barcode can be completed by a 2 or 5-digit add-on that usually indicates the issue number.

Calculate an EAN 13 code

To calculate the EAN 13 code for your serial publication, you first must apply for your ISSN

Create the image of an EAN 13 code

Once the EAN 13 code is calculated, you have to create the corresponding image (succession of vertical bars) that will be reproduced on copies of your publication.

You can either:
– produce this image yourself with appropriate software, or
– order high-definition films from specialised companies (the ISSN International Centre does not provide contact details for these companies).

Barcode – definition
A barcode is the optical translation, in the form of alternating vertical bars and spaces, of a digital or alphabetic code used to identify a product.
To learn more about EAN 13 barcodes
For any question on barcodes, contact your GS1 national agency or your ISSN national centre
For any information about using barcodes in your country, contact your local press distribution agency (contact details are available from your Ministry in charge of the press).