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Frequently asked questions (FAQ) - National ISSN Centre for Germany

What is the ISSN?

The ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is an internationally binding standard code, the sole purpose of which is to identify, concisely and uniquely, periodically assigned publications (such as journals and serials) - regardless of the language, script, citation form, publishing house, country of publication etc. It contains no information on the content, e.g. regarding the publisher or the country of publication. The ISSN is an eight-figure number consisting of the (Arabic) numerals 0-9. It is identified by the prefix "ISSN". The last digit is a check digit and can also be an "X" (e.g. ISSN 0176-6996, ISSN 1430-855X).

What are the advantages of ISSNs?

The ISSN facilitates the automatic administration of serial publications in publishing houses, agencies, book shops and libraries. The ISSN is also very helpful in title searches, as it constitutes a globally unique identifier for a particular publication. The ISSN can make sales channels more efficient and more profitable through the use of barcodes and EDI (Electronic Data Interchange); the same applies for the internal administration of publications. When an ISSN is assigned, the publication is recorded along with the bibliographic details in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie, in the German Union Catalogue of Serials (ZDB) and in the international ISSN portal. This permits free global dissemination of the relevant publication details.

An ISSN can be assigned for every publication covered by the collection mandate of the German National Library

• which appears regularly or irregularly
• periodically under a permanent title
• with no predetermined end
• in printed or other form (e.g. DVD, online publication)

What is a serial publication?

A publication appearing on a serial basis in printed or any other form, generally carrying a numerical or chronological designation, and that has no planned termination date at the outset. This definition excludes publications that are to appear in a fixed number of volumes. The ISSN is valid for all types of serials, irrespective of whether they are (were) published in the past, at present or in the foreseeable future. Journals, series of writings, newspapers, annuals etc. are included in the definition of serial publications.

Which publications are given an ISSN?

An ISSN can be assigned for all serial publications which appear with no predetermined end, regardless of their physical form. This applies for printed publications, but also for online publications, CD-ROMs, DVDs. The publications generally have a numerical or chronological identifier, e.g. Issue 1 (2009) or Volume 1 (2009) or "Spring 2009", "Annual Report 2009"..

Can blogs, too, be assigned ISSNs?

Blogs can be assigned ISSNs if they fulfil the following criteria. They must:

  • have an academic / informative orientation
  • and comply with the collection guidelines of the German National Library.

Please note that ISSNs can only be assigned to blogs which meet the above criteria.

If you are not sure whether your blog meets these criteria, we will be happy to review it for you if you send us the URL.

Once a blog has been assigned an ISSN, it is listed in the catalogue of the German National Library and in the international ISSN portal. This renders the blog quotable.

How can I obtain an ISSN for my publication(s)?

Check first whether your publication is a serial publication. To obtain an ISSN, send the required documents (current copy or, in case of pre-publication assignment, the files of the cover or title page, imprint) with a cover letter to the National ISSN Centre for Germany (). In the case of online publications, the activated URL should be given.
These documents do not take the place of the legal deposit submission to the German National Library.

Are ISSNs also assigned to online publications?

Yes. You can also obtain an ISSN for an online publication assuming it is a serial publication which carries a number or date. An application can normally only be submitted for an ISSN for online publications once they have been published in the net. Please include the activated URL in your application.
ISSNs may be assigned to online publications which

  • correspond to the guidelines for ISSN assignment.
  • Based on the resolution of the ISSN Directors Conference, no ISSNs are assigned for certain types of online publication (e.g. mailing lists, websites containing presentations of individual companies' goods and services which are only relevant for customers, purely private websites).
  • fulfil the criteria of the legal deposit regulation and the collection guidelines for online publications of the German National Library.

    • and are released by commercial publishing houses
    • or are published by universities or scientific institutions
    • or are published by publishing organisations which already work with ISSNs.

When are new ISSNs assigned?

A new ISSN is assigned if the title of the publication changes. This also applies for amalgamations (combining of at least two publications) or splits (separation into at least two new publications) of a title. Title changes are defined in the "ISSN Manual". A new ISSN is also required if the publication changes its medium, e.g. from a printed to an online publication.
The ISSN is not altered in the event of the following changes: change of publisher, change of publisher's location, change of frequency (e.g. from weekly to monthly).
A separate ISSN is also assigned for

  • supplements
  • numbered inserts
  • other editions (e.g. in other languages)
  • special editions of a journal if they are issued more than three times

Can an ISSN be applied for even before the first edition of a new title is released?

Yes, under certain circumstances an ISSN can be applied for even before the first assign is published. In this case, publishers of printed publications should send us the necessary documents (drafts of title page and publisher's imprint) along with a brief covering note. Applications for pre-assignment should not be made more than six months before the planned release of a publication. We do not assign ISSNs before the release of publications not released by the publishing trade.

It is not generally possible to pre-assign ISSNs for online publications.

Is a new ISSN required for each assign of a publication?

No, because the ISSN identifies the entire series of the serial publication. A new ISSN is only required if there is change to the title or the form of the publication.

Are different ISSNs assigned for different media versions of a publication?

Generally, editions assigned simultaneously in different media (print, online publications, electronic publications on physical data carriers such as CD-ROMs) are assigned their own ISSN, even though they share the same title. The ISSN of an online edition applies for all formats in which the electronic publication is assigned, assuming there is no change in the title.

What is the ISSN-L?

Different ISSNs are assigned if a publication appears under the same title in different media versions (print, online publications, CD-ROM).
The ISSN-L (ISSN-Linking) is the superordinate ISSN which applies for all media versions of the same title. It is generated automatically by the International ISSN Centre. The ISSN-L makes it easier to manage different media versions of the same title.

Example:
"Aktuelle Rheumatologie"
ISSN-L 0341-051X
ISSN of print edition 0341-051X
ISSN of Internet edition 1438-9940

Further information

Where and in what form should the ISSN be printed?

The preferred position for the ISSN is close to the title, on the title or cover page. A further suitable place is in the imprint. The ISSN should always be prefixed with the letters "ISSN". The ISSN should always appear clearly and at the same place in every assign, volume, annual etc.
In the case of electronic publications assigned on physical data carriers, the ISSN should also, where possible, be cited as an internal source, e.g. on the title or imprint page. In online publications, please quote the ISSN on the title or publication details screen.

Further information

Recommendations of the US National Information Standards Organization (NISO) on the structure of the imprint of online publications

What does the ISSN convey?

In contrast to the ISBN (for monographs) which contains content-based information about e.g. the publisher or the country of publication, the ISSN is simply an identification number; it carries no information about the content. The ISSN is also firmly linked to the title of the publication (key title) and remains assigned to it as long as it continues to appear in unchanged form.

What is the difference between the ISSN and the ISBN?

ISSNs are assigned to serial publications. ISBNs are assigned to monographs (books). An ISSN can be assigned to a series as a whole; an ISBN is then assigned to the individual monographs in this series; ISBNs can then be assigned additionally to the individual volumes in the series.
ISSNs are assigned by a coordinated network of national ISSN centres, as each serial publication needs to be uniquely identified to distinguish it from identical or similar titles published elsewhere in the world.
The ISBN system has a different structure. An identifying ISBN prefix is assigned to each publisher. The publisher is given a quota of ISBNs, which it can then assign to its publications successively. In Germany, MVB Marketing- und Verlagsservice des Buchhandels GmbH, Frankfurt am Main is responsible for issuing ISBNs.

Is a record kept of all the ISSNs assigned in the world?

Yes. All the ISSNs assigned within the ISSN system are recorded together with key bibliographical information in the ISSN database which is managed by the International ISSN Centre.
The "ISSN Portal" database can be accessed from the ISSN International Centre, Paris, on the World Wide Web. Free trial access can be set up on request for a period of 30 days. Please contact the following email address:

Yes. All assigned ISSNs are recorded together with key bibliographical information in the ISSN database which is managed by the International ISSN Centre.The ISSN Portal database" can be accessed, for a charge, from the ISSN International Centre, Paris, on the World Wide Web. Please contact the following e-mail address: sales@issn.org

Is there a national ISSN centre in my country?

The Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland is responsible for the Federal Republic of Germany:
Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
Adickesallee 1
60322 Frankfurt
Tel. + 49-69-1525-1481 or -1473
Fax + 49-69-1525-1414
Email:
A list of all ISSN centres can be found on the homepage of the International ISSN Centre, Paris.

The Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland is responsible for the Federal Republic of Germany:
Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
Nationales ISSN-Zentrum für Deutschland
Adickesallee 1
60322 Frankfurt
Tel. + 49-69-1525-1481 or -1473
Fax + 49-69-1525-1414
Email:
A list of all ISSN centres can be found on the homepage of the International ISSN Centre, Paris.

Are ISSNs mandatory?

ISSNs are not mandatory in Germany. In some countries, all serial publications subject to the deposit copy law must be given an ISSN. Publishers are obliged to print the ISSN in every assign.

How much does it cost to have an ISSN assigned?

ISSNs are assigned free of charge.

Can the ISSN be used as part of the barcode?

Yes, the ISSN is used as the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN - formerly EAN) component, the most important retail barcode symbol commonly used around the world. Further information can be obtained from GS1 Germany, Cologne.

Does the publication receive copyright/title protection once an ISSN has been assigned?

No, copyright/title protection is not linked to assignment of the ISSN. Different publications may have the same or similar titles. However, in some countries reproduction rights agencies use ISSNs in their system management to determine copyright payments and fees for copied articles.

Does the assign of an ISSN represent a statement on the quality of the content of a serial publication?

Before an ISSN is assigned, the only aspect which is checked is whether the publication meets the formal criteria for a serial publication set out in the ISSN definitions, thereby allowing an ISSN to be assigned. The content is not checked, nor is the quality of the articles or contributions in the serial publication evaluated. The assign of an ISSN therefore does not represent a statement on the quality of a publication's content.

Last update: 09.09.2014

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