International Standard Serial Number

Last updated
International Standard Serial Number
an ISSN, 2049-3630, as represented by an EAN-13 bar code.
No. issued> 2,000,000
Introduced1976;43 years ago (1976)
Managing organisationISSN International Centre
No. of digits8
Check digit Weighted sum
ISSN encoded in an EAN-13 barcode with sequence variant 0 and issue number 5 Issn barcode.png
ISSN encoded in an EAN-13 barcode with sequence variant 0 and issue number 5
Example of an ISSN encoded in an EAN-13 barcode, with explanation. NOTE: MOD10 in the image should be MOD11. Issn-barcode-explained.png
Example of an ISSN encoded in an EAN-13 barcode, with explanation. NOTE: MOD10 in the image should be MOD11.
ISSN expanded with sequence variant 0 to a GTIN-13 and encoded in an EAN-13 barcode with an EAN-2 add-on designating issue number 13 ISSN with addon EAN13.svg
ISSN expanded with sequence variant 0 to a GTIN-13 and encoded in an EAN-13 barcode with an EAN-2 add-on designating issue number 13

An International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an eight-digit serial number used to uniquely identify a serial publication, such as a magazine. [1] The ISSN is especially helpful in distinguishing between serials with the same title. ISSN are used in ordering, cataloging, interlibrary loans, and other practices in connection with serial literature. [2]

Serial number unique code assigned for identification of a single unit

A serial number is a unique identifier assigned incrementally or sequentially to an item, to uniquely identify it.

With reference to a given set of objects, a unique identifier (UID) is any identifier which is guaranteed to be unique among all identifiers used for those objects and for a specific purpose. There are three main types of unique identifiers, each corresponding to a different generation strategy:

  1. serial numbers, assigned incrementally or sequentially
  2. random numbers, selected from a number space much larger than the maximum number of objects to be identified. Although not really unique, some identifiers of this type may be appropriate for identifying objects in many practical applications and are, with abuse of language, still referred to as "unique"
  3. names or codes allocated by choice which are forced to be unique by keeping a central registry such as the EPC Information Services.

In publishing and library and information science, the term serial is applied to materials "in any medium issued under the same title in a succession of discrete parts, usually numbered and appearing at regular or irregular intervals with no predetermined conclusion."


The ISSN system was first drafted as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) international standard in 1971 and published as ISO 3297 in 1975. [3] ISO subcommittee TC 46/SC 9 is responsible for maintaining the standard.

International Organization for Standardization An international standard-setting body composed of representatives from national standards organizations

The International Organization for Standardization is an international standard-setting body composed of representatives from various national standards organizations.

International standards are technical standards developed by international standards organizations. International standards are available for consideration and use worldwide. The most prominent organization is the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

When a serial with the same content is published in more than one media type, a different ISSN is assigned to each media type. For example, many serials are published both in print and electronic media. The ISSN system refers to these types as print ISSN (p-ISSN) and electronic ISSN (e-ISSN), respectively. [4] Conversely, as defined in ISO 3297:2007, every serial in the ISSN system is also assigned a linking ISSN (ISSN-L), typically the same as the ISSN assigned to the serial in its first published medium, which links together all ISSNs assigned to the serial in every medium. [5]

In publishing, art, and communication, content is the information and experiences that are directed towards an end-user or audience. Content is "something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing or any of various arts". Content can be delivered via many different media including the Internet, cinema, television, smartphones, audio CDs, books, e-books, magazines, and live events, such as speeches, conferences, and stage performances.

Media are the communication outlets or tools used to store and deliver information or data. The term refers to components of the mass media communications industry, such as print media, publishing, the news media, photography, cinema, broadcasting, and advertising.

Printing process for reproducing text and images, typically with ink on paper using a printing press

Printing is a process for reproducing text and images using a master form or template. The earliest non-paper products involving printing include cylinder seals and objects such as the Cyrus Cylinder and the Cylinders of Nabonidus. The earliest known form of printing as applied to paper was woodblock printing, which appeared in China before 220 AD. Later developments in printing technology include the movable type invented by Bi Sheng around 1040 AD and the printing press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in the 15th century. The technology of printing played a key role in the development of the Renaissance and the scientific revolution, and laid the material basis for the modern knowledge-based economy and the spread of learning to the masses.

Code format

The format of the ISSN is an eight digit code, divided by a hyphen into two four-digit numbers. [1] As an integer number, it can be represented by the first seven digits. [6] The last code digit, which may be 0-9 or an X, is a check digit. Formally, the general form of the ISSN code (also named "ISSN structure" or "ISSN syntax") can be expressed as follows: [7]

A check digit is a form of redundancy check used for error detection on identification numbers, such as bank account numbers, which are used in an application where they will at least sometimes be input manually. It is analogous to a binary parity bit used to check for errors in computer-generated data. It consists of one or more digits computed by an algorithm from the other digits in the sequence input.

where N is in the set {0,1,2,...,9}, a digit character, and C is in {0,1,2,...,9,X};

or by a Perl Compatible Regular Expressions (PCRE) regular expression: [8]

Perl Compatible Regular Expressions (PCRE) is a library written in C, which implements a regular expression engine, inspired by the capabilities of the Perl programming language. Philip Hazel started writing PCRE in summer 1997. PCRE's syntax is much more powerful and flexible than either of the POSIX regular expression flavors and than that of many other regular-expression libraries.

Regular expression Sequence of characters that forms a search pattern

A regular expression, regex or regexp is a sequence of characters that define a search pattern. Usually this pattern is used by string searching algorithms for "find" or "find and replace" operations on strings, or for input validation. It is a technique that developed in theoretical computer science and formal language theory.


The ISSN of the journal Hearing Research, for example, is 0378-5955, where the final 5 is the check digit, that is C=5. To calculate the check digit, the following algorithm may be used:

Calculate the sum of the first seven digits of the ISSN multiplied by its position in the number, counting from the right—that is, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, and 2, respectively:
The modulus 11 of this sum is then calculated; divide the sum by 11 and determine the remainder:
If there is no remainder the check digit is 0, otherwise the remainder value is subtracted from 11 to give the check digit:
5 is the check digit, C.
For calculations, an upper case X in the check digit position indicates a check digit of 10 (like a Roman ten).

To confirm the check digit, calculate the sum of all eight digits of the ISSN multiplied by its position in the number, counting from the right (if the check digit is X, then add 10 to the sum). The modulus 11 of the sum must be 0.

There is an online ISSN checker that can validate an ISSN, based on the above algorithm. [9] [10]

Code assignment

ISSN codes are assigned by a network of ISSN National Centres, usually located at national libraries and coordinated by the ISSN International Centre based in Paris. The International Centre is an intergovernmental organization created in 1974 through an agreement between UNESCO and the French government. The International Centre maintains a database of all ISSNs assigned worldwide, the ISDS Register (International Serials Data System) otherwise known as the ISSN Register. At the end of 2016, the ISSN Register contained records for 1,943,572 items. [11]

Comparison with other identifiers

ISSN and ISBN codes are similar in concept, where ISBNs are assigned to individual books. An ISBN might be assigned for particular issues of a serial, in addition to the ISSN code for the serial as a whole. An ISSN, unlike the ISBN code, is an anonymous identifier associated with a serial title, containing no information as to the publisher or its location. For this reason a new ISSN is assigned to a serial each time it undergoes a major title change.

Since the ISSN applies to an entire serial a new identifier, the Serial Item and Contribution Identifier (SICI), was built on top of it to allow references to specific volumes, articles, or other identifiable components (like the table of contents).

Media versus content

Separate ISSNs are needed for serials in different media (except reproduction microforms). Thus, the print and electronic media versions of a serial need separate ISSNs. [12] Also, a CD-ROM version and a web version of a serial require different ISSNs since two different media are involved. However, the same ISSN can be used for different file formats (e.g. PDF and HTML) of the same online serial.

This "media-oriented identification" of serials made sense in the 1970s. In the 1990s and onward, with personal computers, better screens, and the Web, it makes sense to consider only content, independent of media. This "content-oriented identification" of serials was a repressed demand during a decade, but no ISSN update or initiative occurred. A natural extension for ISSN, the unique-identification of the articles in the serials, was the main demand application. An alternative serials' contents model arrived with the indecs Content Model and its application, the digital object identifier (DOI), as ISSN-independent initiative, consolidated in the 2000s.

Only later, in 2007, ISSN-L was defined in the new ISSN standard (ISO 3297:2007) as an "ISSN designated by the ISSN Network to enable collocation or versions of a continuing resource linking among the different media". [13]


The ISSN Register is not freely available for interrogation on the web, but is available by subscription. There are several routes to the identification and verification of ISSN codes for the public:

Use in URNs

An ISSN can be encoded as a uniform resource name (URN) by prefixing it with "urn:ISSN:". [14] For example, Rail could be referred to as "urn:ISSN:0953-4563". URN namespaces are case-sensitive, and the ISSN namespace is all caps. [15] If the checksum digit is "X" then it is always encoded in uppercase in a URN.


The util URNs are content-oriented, but ISSN is media-oriented:

A unique URN for serials simplifies the search, recovery and delivery of data for various services including, in particular, search systems and knowledge databases. [13] ISSN-L (see Linking ISSN below) was created to fill this gap.

ISSN variants and labels

There are two most popular media types that adopted special labels (indicating below in italics), and one in fact ISSN-variant, with also an optional label. All are used in standard metadata context like JATS, and the labels also, frequently, as abbreviations.

p-ISSN is a standard label for "Print ISSN", the ISSN for the print media (paper) version of a serial. Usually it is the "default media", so the "default ISSN".

Electronic ISSN

e-ISSN (or eISSN) is a standard label for "Electronic ISSN", the ISSN for the electronic media (online) version of a serial.

Linking ISSN

ISSN-L is a unique identifier for all versions of the serial containing the same content across different media. As defined by ISO 3297:2007, the "linking ISSN (ISSN-L)" provides a mechanism for collocation or linking among the different media versions of the same continuing resource.

The ISSN-L is one ISSN number among the existing ISSNs, so, does not change the use or assignment of "ordinary" ISSNs; [17] it is based on the ISSN of the first published medium version of the publication. If the print and online versions of the publication are published at the same time, the ISSN of the print version is chosen as the basis of the ISSN-L.

With ISSN-L is possible to designate one single ISSN for all those media versions of the title. The use of ISSN-L facilitates search, retrieval and delivery across all media versions for services like OpenURL, library catalogues, search engines or knowledge bases. [18]


See also

Related Research Articles

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  1. 1 2 "What is an ISSN?". Paris: ISSN International Centre. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  2. "Collection Metadata Standards". British Library. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  3. "ISSN, a Standardised Code". Paris: ISSN International Centre. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  4. "The ISSN for electronic media | ISSN". Retrieved 2017-09-28.
  5. "3". ISSN Manual (PDF). Paris: ISSN International Centre. January 2015. pp. 14, 16, 55–58. HTML version available at
  6. Example of database implementation where seven-digit integers are used to store ISSNs.
  7. <>, Slawek Rozenfeld. "Using The ISSN (International Serial Standard Number) as URN (Uniform Resource Names) within an ISSN-URN Namespace".
  8. See p. ex. $pattern at source code (issn-resolver.php) of GitHub.
  9. "Online ISSN Checker". Advanced Science Index. Retrieved 14 July 2014.
  10. "Online ISSN Validator". Journal Seeker. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
  11. "Total number of records in the ISSN Register" (PDF). ISSN International Centre. February 2017. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  12. "ISSN for Electronic Serials". U.S. ISSN Center, Library of Congress. 19 February 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  13. 1 2 "The ISSN-L for publications on multiple media". ISSN International Centre. Retrieved 12 July 2014.
  14. Rozenfeld, Slawek (January 2001). "Using The ISSN (International Serial Standard Number) as URN (Uniform Resource Names) within an ISSN-URN Namespace". IETF Tools. RFC   3044 . Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  15. Powell, Andy; Johnston, Pete; Campbell, Lorna; Barker, Phil (21 June 2006). "Guidelines for using resource identifiers in Dublin Core metadata §4.5 ISSN". Dublin Core Architecture Wiki. Archived from the original on 13 May 2012.
  16. "MEDLINE®/PubMed® Data Element (Field) Descriptions". U.S. National Library of Medicine. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 19 July 2014.
  17. Kansalliskirjasto, Nationalbiblioteket, The National Library of Finland. "Kansalliskirjasto, Nationalbiblioteket, The National Library of Finland". maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  18. "La nueva Norma ISSN facilita la vida de la comunidad de las publicaciones en serie", A. Roucolle. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 29 October 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. "Road in a nutshell". Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. Retrieved 12 September 2017.