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

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 issued publications - 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 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 issued, 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.

Which publications can obtain an ISSN?

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

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

How can I obtain an ISSN for a work that I have already published?

Title not submitted to the German National Library under the legal deposit regulation

Check first whether your publication is a serial publication. Send the documents necessary for issuing the ISSN together with an informal 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.

Title already submitted to the German National Library under the legal deposit regulation.

Check in the Portal of the German National Library whether an ISSN has already been assigned to the title. If this is not the case, you can apply for an ISSN following the instructions above. It is sufficient, however, to point out that the title has already been submitted to the German National Library.

Are ISSNs also issued 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 only be issued to online publications which

  • correspond to the guidelines for ISSN assignment.
    Based on the resolution of the ISSN Directors Conference, no ISSNs are issued 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.

Can blogs, too, be assigned ISSNs?

Blogs can be given an ISSN if they 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, send us the URL and we will be happy to review it for you.

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.

When are new ISSNs assigned?

A new ISSN is issued 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 place of publication, change of frequency of publication (e.g. from weekly to monthly).

A separate ISSN is also issued for

  • supplements
  • numbered inserts
  • other editions (e.g. in other languages)
  • serial special editions of a journal.

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

Yes. We offer large customers the possible to apply for an ISSN in advance, i.e. before the release of the publication. Please note that, for individual applicants, we can only issue an ISSN after a publication has been released. Publishers of print publications should also send us the necessary documentation by e-mail. Applications for pre-assignment should not be made more than six months before the planned release of a publication.

Is a new ISSN required for each issue 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 issued for different media versions of a publication?

Generally, editions which are issued simultaneously in different media (print, online, 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 data formats in which the electronic publication is issued, assuming there is no change in the title.

What is the ISSN-L?

Different ISSNs are issued if a publication appears under the same title in different media versions (print, online, 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.
"Aktuelle Rheumatologie"
ISSN-L 0341-051X
ISSN of print edition 0341-051X
ISSN of online edition 1438-9940

Further information

Where and in what form should the ISSN be printed?

See Using the ISSN

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.

What is the difference between the ISSN and the ISBN?

ISSNs are assigned to serial publications. ISBNs are issued to monographs (books). An ISSN can be issued to a series as a whole; ISBNs can then be issued additionally to the individual volumes in the series.

ISSNs are issued by a 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 issued in the world?

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 from the ISSN International Centre, Paris, on the World Wide Web. Please contact the following e-mail address: .

Is there a national ISSN centre in my country?

The National ISSN Centre for Germany is responsible for the Federal Republic of Germany:

German National Library
National ISSN-Centre for Germany
Adickesallee 1
60322 Frankfurt
Tel. + 49-69-1525-1481
Fax + 49-69-1525-1414

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 issue.

How much does an ISSN assignment cost?

ISSNs are issued free of charge in Germany.

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 issued?

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

Before an ISSN is issued, the only aspect which is checked is whether the publication meets the formal criteria for a serial publication set out in the ISSN definitions. The content is not checked, nor is the quality of the articles or contributions in the serial publication evaluated.

Where can I see whether an ISSN has been issued for my publication?

Since December 2016 the German National Library has automatically issued ISSNs to numerous publications upon their being submitted under the legal deposit regulation. Before applying for an ISSN it is possible to check in the portal of the German National Library whether an ISSN has already been assigned to a publication. If this is not the case, ISSN assignment can be applied for informally by e-mail.

Last update: 30.10.2017

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