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ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)

What is the ISSN?

The ISSN is a unique machine-readable identification number for periodical publications, including electronic serials. The ISSN was published in 1975 as ISO Standard 3297. The ISSN numbering system is managed by a network of 76 National Centres and an International Centre.

The number consists of the characters ISSN followed by two groups of four digits, separated by a hyphen. The final digit is a check digit and can be any of the numerals 0 to 9 or an upper case X. The number does not contain in itself any information referring to the origin or contents of the publication. ISSN numbers are usually assigned sequentially by the ISSN Centres.

E.g. ISSN 1144-875X

The item may also be printed with its EAN version in both barcode and number versions. The EAN begins with the prefix 977 which signifies serial publications, followed by the ISSN with the hyphen and eighth digit omitted, followed by a two digit price code, and finally the EAN check digit.

977EAN 13 prefix specific for serial publications (with ISSN based barcodes)
1144875ISSN (transcribed without its hyphen and without its control key, i.e. the eighth and last digit - here: X)
00Price code allowing the indication of a particular price (special issue, double issue, etc.). If there is nothing special, it will be "00"
7 EAN 13 check-digit

E.g. 9771144875007

Key title

The ISSN is linked to a standardised form of the title of a serial, known as the 'key title', which gives the title of the publication, qualified with additional elements to distinguish it from other publications with the same title.

ISSN Key titleCountry of publication and start and end dates of publication
ISSN 1105-0748Babel (Athens) (Greece 1981-9999)
ISSN 1147-8306Babel (Paris)(France 1990-9999)

Notes on use

ISSNs are assigned by the National Centres. If a country has no National Centre, or the title is published by an international organisation, then ISSNs are assigned by the International Centre. ISSNs are assigned to both print and electronic publications.

When does a work need a new ISSN?

  • The title of the publication changes
  • The publication is issued in a different publication medium (e.g. electronic version)

When does a work not need a new ISBN?

  • The price of the publication changes.

An ISSN can be assigned to a series of monographs. Each individual monograph will have its own ISBN.

Once allocated, ISSNs are not re-used to avoid confusion.

ISSN International Centre

The ISSN Network is coordinated by the ISSN International Centre based in Paris.

Recording the ISSN in MARC 21

ISSNs should be recorded in field 022 ISSN

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Content by: Ann Chapman of UKOLN.
Page last revised on: 11-Mar-2010
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