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What is an ISSN Number

There are many numbers that are assigned to published work today. These numbers help distributors, manufacturers, and retailers be able to sort, track, and sell these works effectively. The International Standard Serial Number, or ISSN, is one of those assigned numbers. It is given to serial publications that have the same title, but do not have a pre-determined end to their publication, allowing each new issue to have the opportunity to be distinguished from previous or future issues.

How Did the ISSN Come About?

The first ISSN system was drafted in 1971 by the International Organization for Standardization. It was then published in 1975. A subcommittee within the organization is still responsible for its oversight and distribution today.

Each ISSN is an eight digit serial number. Whenever a publication has more than one media type, then each type of media will be assigned its own number. For today’s works, this often means a print ISSN and an electronic ISSN are going to be issue. Each serial is also assigned what is called a “linking ISSN,” which is a serial that is assigned to its first published medium.

What Publications Are Covered By ISSN Protocols?

Any publication which offers continuing resources qualifies for coverage under ISSN protocols. Although not every publication requires an ISSN, they are offered free of charge if you apply directly for one. There are membership groups that make the assignment process much easier, but may charge membership fees for the work they will do on your behalf.

Either way, it’s a simple way to promote your own serial work and give it legitimacy, even if you’re only publishing your content online and have never considered print publication.

Newspapers, annual publications, journals, and magazines are the types of publications where you’ll most often see an ISSN. According to number standards, if an ISSN has been assigned, it should be in the upper right corner of the cover. If that location is not available for some reason, then the ISSN should be shown on the pages where the editorial information of the publication happens to be.

Online publications are also covered by ISSN protocols. This includes databases that are updated regularly and distributed, blogs, websites, and other collections. Electronic media is also included, such as a DVD, a CD-ROM, or other physical medium. The ISSN should be placed on the home page or on the main menu if accessed online. For electronic media, it can be placed on any part of the item that is visible to the consumer.

Do I Need To Get an ISSN?

If you plan on writing a blog for commercial purposes, it may be wise to consider the ISSN process. If you are writing for personal purposes only and wish to share your thoughts with family and friends, then an ISSN may not be necessary.

Most serial print publications are going to need an ISSN simply because they are usually being distributed for profit. If there is an ISBN or other number assigned in addition to the ISSN, the all numbers must be published together.

Requesting an ISSN may be able to help ensure a copyright to created work is considered valid, but an ISSN does not enhance copyright assignment. Your creative work is automatically covered by copyright considerations, often when the work is completed or has the distribution process begin for it.

How Do I Get an ISSN?

If you’re a publisher of a serial, then the ISSN codes that you’ll need are assigned by a network of national centers that are responsible for number distribution. In most circumstances, you’ll need to apply for your ISSN through the national library of your country. These libraries then coordinate the ISSNs which have been assigned through the International Center, which is based out of Paris, and maintains a complete database of all ISSNs that have ever been assigned.

The total number of new records has averaged about 62,000 new ISSNs assigned per year for the last decade. This means there are nearly 2 million different records that are kept on file by the International Center right now.

If your country does not have a national library or falls under the responsibility of the ISSN International Center for some reason, then there are a complete set of guidelines that you’ll need to read through to obtain an ISSN. You can find out more information about submitting your request or downloading the guidelines in the language of your choice from the Requesting an ISSN page maintained by the International Center.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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