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

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions about the ISSN


What Do the Letters ISSN Stand For?

International Standard Serial Number. According to the pertinent national and international standards (ISO 3297; ANSI/NISO Z39.9) the abbreviation"ISSN" denotes the singular and plural forms, according to context.

Why Do I Need an ISSN?

The ISSN can be thought of as the social security number of the serials world. Just as an individual's social security number is used in many automated systems to distinguish that person from others with the same or similar names, the ISSN distinguishes a particular serial from others with which it might be confused. The ISSN also helps library patrons, libraries, and others who handle large numbers of serials to find and identify titles in automated systems more quickly and easily.

Does the ISSN Have Any Meaning Embedded in the Number?

Unlike the ISBN, which contains country and publisher prefixes, the ISSN contains no inherent meaning.

Why Do Some ISSN End in an "X"?

An ISSN is composed of eight digits: the arabic numerals 0 to 9, except that in the case of the last digit, which is a check digit, the upper case X can appear. The purpose of the check digit is to guard against errors caused by the incorrect transcription of the ISSN. The method of determining the check digit for the ISSN is the modulus 11 basis, using the weighting factors 8 to 2. In the case of the ISSN, the Roman numeral X is used where the check digit calculation results in a remainder of 10.

Who Assigns ISSN?

ISSN are assigned by a network of over 60 centers worldwide coordinated by the ISSN International Centre located in Paris. ISSN are assigned to serials published in the United States by the U.S. ISSN Center at the Library of Congress. Serials published outside of the United States are assigned ISSN by the national center in their country of publication, or, in the case of countries lacking a national center, by the ISSN International Centre. Information about the ISSN network and ISSN centers worldwide can be found on the ISSN International Centre's home page.

Who Is Eligible to Obtain ISSN From the U.S. ISSN Center?

The U.S. ISSN Center generally only assigns ISSN at the direct request of the publisher or an agent (such as an attorney) acting on the publisher's behalf. Libraries and other ISSN users interested in obtaining ISSN should contact the head of the U.S. ISSN Center, Regina Reynolds, issn@loc.gov, to discuss other possible arrangements.

How Do I Get an ISSN for a U.S. Serial?

U.S. publishers should complete an application form and send it to the U.S. ISSN Center together with a representation of the serial (either a sample issue, or a photocopy of the cover, title page (if present), masthead, publisher information, and any other pages giving information about the serial.

How Much Does It Cost to Get an ISSN?

There is no charge for the assignment of the ISSN, or for the use of an ISSN once assigned. (However, the Library of Congress incurs substantial costs to staff and maintain the U.S. ISSN Center. Additionally, the Library of Congress is assessed a considerable fee to belong to the ISSN Network.)

Do I Need a Separate ISSN for Each Issue?

No. ISSN are assigned to the entire serial and stay the same from issue to issue unless you change the title of your serial in any way except to increment the date (e.g., The World of Serials 1996 to The World of Serials 1997).

What Happens if I Change My Title?

Title changes are costly for libraries and can be costly to publishers as well. If you must change the title, please apply to the U.S. ISSN Center for a new ISSN at least a month in advance. If you are in doubt as to whether a contemplated title change would require a new ISSN, please contact the center (issn@loc.gov). The Whats in a Name? brochure has further information about the costs of serial title changes.

How Many ISSN Do I Need?

That depends. For most serials one ISSN for each title under which it has been published is sufficient. But, if your serial is published in different language, regional, or physical editions (e.g., print, electronic), you will probably require a separate ISSN for each edition. Further information about electronic serials is available.

Where and How Do I Print the ISSN?

The preferred location for printing the ISSN on a printed serial is on the upper right-hand corner of the cover. Other good locations are the masthead area, the copyright page, or in the publishing statement where information about the publisher, frequency, and other publication facts are given. On a non-print serial, the ISSN should be printed, if possible, on an internal source, such as on a title screen or home page. Other suggested locations on non-print serials are on external sources such as microfiche headers, cassette or disc labels, or other containers. If a publication has both an ISSN and an ISBN, each should be printed. If a publication is in a series which has its own ISSN, both ISSN should be printed, accompanied by the title to which it pertains.

Do I Have to Send You Each Issue I Publish?

No. The ISSN office only needs to see one published issue either at the time of registration, or after publication, for ISSN issued prior to the publication of the first issue of a serial. However, please see Copyright Circular 7d, Mandatory Deposit of Copies or Phonorecords for the Library of Congress for information on Copyright deposit requirements you may be subject to.

What Is the ISBN?

ISBN or International Standard Book Number is the book counterpart to the ISSN. It is a national and international standard identification number for uniquely identifying books, i.e., publications that are not intended to continue indefinitely.

Can a Publication Have Both an ISSN and an ISBN?

Yes. This situation occurs most commonly with books in a series and with annuals or biennials. The ISBN identifies the individual book in a series or a specific year for an annual or biennial. The ISSN identifies the ongoing series, or the ongoing annual or biennial serial.

What Is the Relationship Between ISSN and CIP?

CIP or Cataloging in Publication information is only available for books. So, unless the cataloging in publication data is for an individual book in a series, a publication will not normally be eligible for both cataloging in publication and ISSN.

What Is the Relationship Between ISSN and Copyright?

There is no connection between Copyright and ISSN. Having an ISSN does not confer any Copyright protection, nor does sending a serial to the Copyright office eliminate your need to send the U.S. ISSN Center a sample issue of a serial for which you were given a prepublication ISSN.

Does Registering a Title with an ISSN Mean No One Else Can Use It?

No. Getting an ISSN for a title does not confer any exclusive rights to that title. Nor can titles be copyrighted. The best way to protect a title is to register it with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Does Having an ISSN Mean I Can Mail My Serial at Special Postal Rates?

No. The U.S. Postal Service uses the ISSN as an identification number for certain publications mailed at second class postage rates, but all publications have to meet the same requirements for a second class mailing permit regardless of whether they have an ISSN or not. Contact your local postmaster about obtaining a second class mailing permit.

How Are ISSN Used in Bar Codes?

The ISSN is used in several bar codes as the title identifier portion of the code. One such code, the SISAC bar code symbol, can be found on scholarly, technical, medical and other subscription-based serials. The SISAC symbol is used by libraries and library-affiliated organizations. The symbol can also represent articles within journals and is used by document delivery services. The other major bar code that uses the ISSN is the EAN (International Article Number). The EAN is used in the U.S. by major bookstore chains for trade and other book publications. It is used extensively in the U.K. for magazines.

Although the ISSN is used as an element of the above bar codes, NSDP does not issue the actual bar codes. Further information concerning the SISAC bar code symbol is available from Publication ID Division of Product Identification & Processing Systems, Inc. (PIPS), on the Web at http://www.pips.com/


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Library of Congress Help Desk ( February 19, 2010 )