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

What is an ISSN?




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An ISSN is an 8-digit code used to identify newspapers, journals, magazines and periodicals of all kinds and on all media–print and electronic.

  • Which publications are concerned by an ISSN?
  • What form does an ISSN take?
  • What is its role?
  • Where is it displayed?

Which publications are concerned by an ISSN?

An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) identifies all continuing resources, irrespective of their medium (print or electronic):

  • newspapers,
  • annual publications (reports, directories, lists, etc.),
  • journals,
  • magazines,
  • collections,
  • websites,
  • databases,
  • blogs,etc.

In many countries, an ISSN is mandatory for all publications subject to the legal deposit.

What form does an ISSN take?

The ISSN takes the form of the acronym ISSN followed by two groups of four digits, separated by a hyphen. The eighth digit is a check digit calculated according to a modulus 11 algorithm on the basis of the 7 preceding digits; this eighth control digit may be an “X” if the result of the computing is equal to “10”, in order to avoid any ambiguity.

e. g.:

  • ISSN 0317-8471
  • ISSN 1050-124X

What is its role?

The ISSN role is to identify a publication.

It is a digital code without any intrinsic meaning:

  • it does not include any information about the origin or contents of the publication,
  • it does not guarantee the quality or validity of the contents.

The ISSN is associated with the title of the publication. If the publication is modified significantly, a new ISSN must be assigned.

Where is it displayed?

For a print publication, the ISSN should be shown:

  • preferably, in the upper right corner of the cover,
  • failing that, on the pages where editorial information is shown (publisher, frequency, colophon, etc.).

For a publication in electronic media, the ISSN should be shown:

  • on the homepage or on the main menu, if it is an online publication,
  • on any part visible to the naked eye (microfiche header, CD-Rom or DVD label, box, case, etc.), if the publication is on a physical medium.

If a publication is identified by ISSN and ISBN, both of these identifiers should be mentioned.

A few definitions
• Continuing resources: a continuing resource is a resource, on any medium, that is published over time without a predetermined end.
Serial publications and ongoing integrating resources are continuing resources.
They are defined by the ISO 3297 standard.
• Serial publication: a serial publication is an unfinished set of documents, published successively under the same title, for an undetermined period of time.
The ISO 3297 standard defines it as a publication, in any medium, issued in successive parts, usually having numerical or chronological designations, that has no predetermined end.
• 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 as a continuing resource that is completed by updates integrated into the body of the work.
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