U.S. ISSN Center, Library of Congress
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

Bar Codes for Serials


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The U.S. ISSN Center is responsible for the assignment of the International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) for serials published in the United States. While the ISSN is used as one element in some bar codes for serials, we do not provide bar codes to publishers. We can, however, assign an ISSN to your serial prior to your publishing the first issue so that you can incorporate the ISSN into your cover design and bar code activity.

There are several types of bar codes appearing on publications, including serials. The UPC code, which is primarily seen on trade and mass-market books, as well as general interest magazines, is used at retail store point-of-sale by non-book stores. At this time the UPC numbering code has twelve (12) digits. It is divided into two sections of variable length. The first section is known as the Company Prefix (CP) and is assigned by the Uniform Code Council. It varies between six (6) and nine (9) digits. The second section is the Item Reference (IR) and is assigned by the company to each product. Depending on the length of the CP, the IR varies between five (5) digits and two (2) digits. A single check digit completes the code. The UPC does not include the ISSN.

Another type of bar code is the International Article Number (EAN), a thirteen (13)-digit number that was developed from the UPC. In fact, the UPC is a subset of the EAN. Every 12-digit UPC number becomes a 13-digit EAN number by the addition of a leading zero. The EAN has three sections. The first section consisting of 2 or 3 digits designates a country. Within each country the remaining digits are assigned as variable length CP and IR. EAN International has contracted with the International Standard Book Number (ISBN) agency to allow the use of 978 and 979 on ISBN-coded publications. This usage is known as Bookland EAN. It is used in the United States on trade paperback and hardcover books and by major bookstore chains at point of sale. It is the book bar coding standard outside of the U.S.

The U.S. book industry, working through the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the Book Industry Study Group (BISG), announced that Bookland EAN is the single U.S. standard for bar coding books effective in 2005. The UCC retail standard requires that all point-of-sale scanning devices be able to capture and store both a 12-digit UPC and a 13-digit EAN. All prior uses of the UPC symbol on books will be phased out on new and reprinted titles.

Serial publications throughout the world use variations of both the UPC and the EAN for bar coding. In the U.S., general interest magazines use the UPC code with the CP assigned to either the publisher or the distributor. The IR is usually the industry standard BIPAD title number, which predated the UPC system. A similar system is used in Germany and France.

In the United Kingdom, magazines use an EAN coding structure based on the ISSN with the leading digits of 977, agreed to by both the international EAN and ISSN agencies. In most other countries, magazines are coded in accordance with the standard CP and IR scheme.

The SISAC Bar Code -- based on the ANSI/NIOI Z39.56, Serial Item and Contribution Identifier (SICI) standard -- was developed for use in the library community to control check-in and issue receipt for those serials likely to be acquired through subscription by the library and information community. The ISSN is the first element in that code.

More information on the SISAC Bar Code and the SICI may be obtained from Publication ID Division of Product Identification & Processing Systems, Inc. (PIPS), 436 East 87th Street, New York, NY 10128 (Tel: 212.996.6000; Toll Free: 888.783.7439; Fax: 212.410.7795; E-mail: infowsp@pips.com; Web: http://www.pips.com ).

Information on UPC and EAN may be obtained from: GS1 US (the new name for the Uniform Code Council), 7887 Washington Village Drive, Suite 300, Dayton, Ohio 45459 (Tel: 937.435.3870; Fax: 937.435.7317; Web: http://www.gs1us.org/gs1us.html).

Information on book coding may be obtained from the Book Industry Study Group, Inc. (BISG) at their Web site: http://www.bisg.org.

Information on the ISBN may be obtained from the U.S. ISBN Agency, R.R. Bowker Co., 630 Central Ave., New Providence, NJ 07974; Tel: 877.310.7333; Fax: 908.219.0188; Web: http://www.isbn.org.

Revised 6/2005


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