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International Standard Numbers (ISNs)

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is an ISSN?

The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is an internationally recognized identification number for serial publications. An ISSN is an eight-digit standard number that, once assigned, becomes a permanent attribute of the individual serial for as long as it is issued under a given title. Each time the title of a serial is changed, a new ISSN must be assigned. ISSN must never be reused for new or changed serial titles.

ISSN are assigned by national and regional centres of the international ISSN Network. This system of international coordination ensures that each ISSN is unique to one serial publication.

ISSN can be used wherever information on serials needs to be recorded or communicated.

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What is a serial publication?

A "serial" is a publication issued in successive parts and intended to be continued indefinitely. Each issue of a serial usually has a numerical and/or chronological designation (e.g. vol., no., and/or date) that distinguishes the individual issues of the serial from each other.

Serials include periodicals, newspapers, annuals (such as yearbooks, annual reports and directories, etc.), journals, memoirs, proceedings, transactions of societies and monographic series.

Serials can be published in any medium (e.g. print, CD-ROM, via Internet, etc.). If a serial is issued in more than one medium, a different ISSN is usually required for each format in which the serial is issued.

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How do publishers obtain an ISSN?

Publishers of Canadian serials should contact ISSN Canada to request an ISSN for each new serial title they plan to publish. Requests may be submitted by using the online application form or by contacting ISSN Canada at the following address:

ISSN Canada
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0N4
Telephone: 819-994-6895 or 1-866-578-7777 (toll free in Canada and the US)
Fax: 819-997-6209
E-mail: issn@bac-lac.gc.ca

Publishers should contact ISSN Canada as soon as the title has been selected, to ensure that the correct ISSN appears on the first issue of a new or changed title.

ISSN are provided free of charge.

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Where does the ISSN appear?

Publishers should print the ISSN in a prominent position on every issue of a serial publication. For serials distributed on the Internet and World Wide Web, the ISSN should appear on the first screen of the item. For print serials, the preferred location for the ISSN is the top right-hand corner of the front cover. The eight-digit number must always be preceded by the letters ISSN to avoid any confusion with other numbering systems.

Example: ISSN 0027-9633
 

It is also useful to cite the ISSN in advertisements, trade literature, book reviews, etc. because ISSN are widely used to process and verify ordering information.

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What are the advantages of having an ISSN?

Publishers are not legally obliged to print ISSN but there are many advantages to having ISSN for serial publications.

Because the ISSN system is international and each ISSN is unique, an ISSN can identify a serial regardless of its language or country of origin and it will distinguish between serials with the same or similar titles.

ISSN are used wherever information on serials needs to be recorded and communicated with precision (e.g. purchase orders, database searching, etc.).

ISSN provide an efficient and economical method of communication between publishers, suppliers and purchasers of serial publications. They also provide a useful point of access to publishers' catalogues, trade directories, automated inventories, bibliographies, etc.

ISSN are widely used in computer databases for organizing, retrieving and transmitting data about serials. The ISSN is also an essential element of the SISAC and EAN bar codes [PDF 55 KB].

ISSN are widely used in libraries for identifying, ordering and processing serial titles.

Publications that have ISSN are entered into the international register of serial publications maintained by the ISSN International Centre in Paris. This international register lists over 1,000,000 serial titles and grows at an annual rate of about 50,000 new listings. www.issn.org

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What is the difference between ISSN and ISBN?

International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN) are eight-digit standard numbers for the unique identification of serial publications.

Example: ISSN 0027-9633
 

International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) are ten-digit standard numbers for the unique identification of each edition of a book or other monographic publication (e.g. pamphlets, educational kits, etc.).

Example: ISBN 0-7710-1234-5
 

Some types of publications, such as annuals or less frequently published serials, may be assigned both an ISSN and an ISBN. Monographs within a monographic series should have both an ISBN for the individual monograph and an ISSN for the entire series.

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