What is an ISSN?
The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an identification system that facilitates the clear identification for serial publications that are intended to appear indefinitely.
Typical examples of serial publications include journals, newspapers, serials, scientific blogs and databases. In contrast, monographs (books) are labelled solely with an ISBN.
The ISSN is valid worldwide. Each publication is assigned an individual eight-digit number consisting of Arabic numerals from 0 to 9. The ISSN is identified by preceding this number with the letter “ISSN”. The final character is a check digit and can also be an “X” (e.g. ISSN 0176-6996, ISSN 1430-855X). This makes every publication unique.
The numeric format means that ISSN can be used worldwide irrespective of the language. Titles of periodicals can be the same or similar. Using ISSN to search for titles facilitates the precise identification of the work you are searching for. In the digital world, the ISSN serves as a unique identifier for identical works in different various databases and can be used to match them.
The ISSN standard is constantly undergoing further development to keep pace with the increase in digitalisation. When it was developed in the 1970s, the focus lay solely on its use for printed media works. Nowadays, ISSN are used as a matter of course for digital publications of all kinds.
The assignment and administration of ISSN is a joint task carried out within a network. This network consists of national centres and the International ISSN Centre based in Paris. The International ISSN Centre coordinates the work of the national centres in more than 90 countries. The ISSN portal, an international database, already contains more than two million ISSN and their corresponding titles along with a brief bibliographic description.This number is growing daily.
ISSN are assigned by national centres in each country. The National ISSN Centre for Germany is located at the German National Library.
Please note that the National ISSN Centre for Germany is only responsible for publications that were initially issued in the Federal Republic of Germany. Otherwise, you can obtain information about the appropriate ISSN centre on the website of the International ISSN Centre.
To the International ISSN Centre
To the ISSN portal
How is an ISSN requested?
When a new serial publication is deposited with the German National Library, most printed publications and media works stored on physical data carriers (CD-ROM, DVD)
- that were first published in Germany and
- which meet the criteria of a serial publication (journals, yearbooks, annual reports, series)
are assigned an ISSN directly. You do not have to request the assignment of an ISSN in such cases. The ISSN is assigned by the National ISSN Centre for Germany and can be found in the catalogue of the German National Library.
For publications released online, you must make an informal written application for the assignment of an ISSN: firstname.lastname@example.org
The bibliographic information on the publication and the ISSN are displayed
- in the catalogue of the German National Library
- in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie
- in the German Union Catalogue of Serials (ZDB)
- and in the international ISSN Portal
ISSN can also be assigned retrospectively. Here too, it is sufficient if an informal written application is sent to: email@example.com
As a rule, we only assign an ISSN after a publication has been released. However, we offer major clients the option to have an ISSN assigned before the first issue is published (advance assignment). Persons making individual application can usually only be assigned an ISSN after the publication has been issued.
If you require the advance assignment of an ISSN, please send the necessary documents and a brief message to: firstname.lastname@example.org
For this, we need
- a draft of the title page and imprint,
- the scheduled publication date,
- the planned publication frequency and
- information as to whether the publication will be appearing in print and/or online.
Printed and online editions of a publication are assigned different ISSN even if the titles are identical. The main internet address must also be provided if an ISSN is to be assigned to an online publication in advance. This must be activated.
You should not apply for advance assignment of an ISSN more than six months before the publication is scheduled for release.
A new ISSN must be obtained if a title changes. The same applies if the format of the publication changes, e.g. from a printed to an online publication. In these cases, please contact the National ISSN Centre for Germany: email@example.com
Inserting ISSN in publications
ISSN in printed periodicals
Please print the ISSN in the same prominent position on the outer cover (and, if possible, on the imprint page) of every issue, volume, year etc. It must be preceded by the letters “ISSN” as in the following example: ISSN 1234-5678.
Note: The last digit is a check digit; it is represented by an “X” if its numerical value is 10.
It is up to you to decide which typography to use.
ISSN in printed series (book series), journal-like series (yearbooks) and annual reports
In these publications, the ISSN is sometimes printed alone and sometimes with an ISBN and/or additional ISSN.
If the ISSN is printed alone:
In this case, please print the ISSN on the outer cover (but not on the dust cover) and/or on the imprint page.
If the ISSN is printed together with an ISBN:
In this case, please print the ISSN (for the series) together with the ISBN (of the respective volume) as in the following example:
ISSN in parallel printed and online editions of a publication
If a publication appears in both printed and online formats, we recommend you cite both ISSN in
ISSN in Online-Publications
For online publications, please specify the ISSN on the title or imprint page.
Recommendations by the US American National Information Standards Organization (NISO) on structuring the imprint of an online publication
ISSN in publications stored on physical data carriers
For publications stored on physical data carriers such as CD-ROMs or DVDs, please specify the ISSN on the DVD/CD-ROM. Here too, the numbers should be printed in the same prominent position in every issue, volume, year etc.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Are ISSN also assigned to online publications/blogs?
Yes. ISSN can also be assigned to online publications or blogs if these are serial publications that are numbered or dated. ISSN are not assigned to mailing lists, websites with descriptions of customer offers and services provided by companies, or purely private websites.
Are you unsure whether your online publication or blog meets these criteria? We will gladly check this for you if you send us the internet address. Just send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .
In general, you can only request an ISSN for online publications after they have been published in the internet. Please include the activated main internet address with your application.
When is a new ISSN assigned?
A new ISSN is assigned when the title of a publication changes. The same applies to mergers (when at least two publications are combined) and splits (when a title is split into at least two new publications). A new ISSN is also required if the format of a publication changes – for example from printed to online.
ISSN are not changed in the following situations: Change of publisher and/or place of publication and/or frequency of publication (e.g. weekly to monthly).
A separate ISSN is also assigned to
- numbered inserts,
- other editions (e.g. speech output),
- serial special editions of a periodical.
Is a new ISSN required for each edition of a publication?
No, because the ISSN is assigned to the title of the serial publication. The ISSN needs only be changed if the title or format of the publication changes.
What is the ISSN-L?
If a publication appears in different formats with the same title (printed, online publication, CD-ROM), separate ISSN have to be assigned.
The ISSN-L (ISSN linking) is the superordinate identifier that applies to all the formats of this one title. It is assigned automatically by the International ISSN Centre. The ISSN-L makes is easier to manage different formats of the same publication.
ISSN of print edition 0341-051X
ISSN of online edition 1438-9940
What is the difference between ISSN and ISBN?
ISSN are assigned to serial publications such as journals and newspapers, which ISBN are assigned to monographs (books). An ISSN can be assigned to a serial publication as a whole; each individual volume in the series can also be given an ISBN.
ISSN are assigned by a network of national ISSN centres as globally unique identifiers. The ISBN system is structured differently. Each publisher is assigned an ISBN prefix that identifies the publishing company. The publisher receives a contingent of ISBN which it then assigns consecutively to the publications in the series. In Germany, the body responsible for assigning ISBN is MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH in Frankfurt am Main.
Unlike the ISBN, which contains information on the publisher or the country of publication, the ISSN solely serves the purpose of identification.
MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH, Frankfurt am Main
Is there a record of all the ISSN assigned worldwide?
Yes. All the ISSN assigned are entered in the ISSN database together with important bibliographic information. This database is maintained by the International ISSN Centre.
Contact address of the International ISSN Centre:
Are ISSN mandatory, and what do they cost?
ISSN are not mandatory in the Federal Republic of Germany, but they are in other countries.
In Germany, ISSN are issued free of charge.
Can the ISSN be used as part of the bar code?
Yes, the ISSN is an element of the GTIN, the Global Trade Item Number (formerly EAN), the most important barcode symbol in the global trading system. More information is available from GS1 Germany .
Does a publication receive copyright/title protection when it is assigned an ISSN?
No, the assignment of the ISSN is not linked with copyright/title protection. Various publications can have the same or similar titles. However, in some countries the ISSN are used by reproduction rights agencies so that they can determine copyright payments and fees for copied articles.
Does the issue of an ISSN represent a statement on the quality of the content of a serial publication?
When an ISSN is issued, the only aspect which is checked is whether the publication meets the formal criteria for a serial publication according to the ISSN definitions. The content is not checked, nor is the quality of the articles or contributions in the serial publication evaluated.
Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
60322 Frankfurt am Main
Phone +49 69 1525-1481
Fax +49 69 1525-1429