• Barcode Ireland Team

Did you know you need an ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) for Newspapers and Magazines?

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

Where to get your ISSN in

ISSN for Newspapers and Magazines

In a previous blog, ‘The ISBN (International Standard Book Number and its origins in Ireland’ https://www.barcodeireland.ie/post/the-isbn-international-standard-book-number-and-its-origins-in-ireland we discussed the whys and wherefores of requiring and obtaining an ISBN code for books. Ongoing publications, such as magazines, newspapers, periodicals, journals, websites, databases, blogs, etc require a more specialised barcode made up of both the applicable 8-digit ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) as well as an add-on barcode which indicates the issue number. The ISSN system was first drafted as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) international standard in 1971 and published as ISO 3297 in 1975.

The code is without intrinsic meaning, for example it does not contain information about the origin or contents of the publication nor the quality or validity of such contents. As with EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes when there are variations in retail products, when a serial with the same content is published in more than one media type, a different ISSN is assigned to each media type. For example, many serials are published in both print and electronic media.

The ISSN number itself will never change unless the title of the publication itself is significantly altered. Many retailers will permit you to stock their stores without a new issue number barcode on each next edition, however some of the larger bookstores will not, so its advisable to first check with them.

If your publication is only for private distribution and you intend to make no more than 50 copies, you are not by law required to reflect an ISSN barcode. Booksellers and newsagents will however require you to have one for retail purposes. In the case of an e-book for instance, the decision lies with the online portal where you have chosen to market your work.

Apart from its role in identifying publications, the ISSN barcode has its practical applications. It’s essential for all serial publication professionals, for example, in electronic archiving, cataloguing, distribution, subscriptions and management.

Electronic archiving

The ISSN International Portal is the worldwide catalogue for serial publications. Hence the ISSN is a bibliographical tool which students, researchers, writers of summaries and librarians can use to give the precise references of a serial publication.


A standardised identification digital code, the ISSN is used in IT applications to update files, establish links between files and to search for and exchange data.

Distribution, subscriptions and management

The ISSN is used widely in libraries to identify files, order and verify serial publications and to claim missing issues. It simplifies lending operations between libraries and as with EAN-13 and UPC-A barcodes in retail are a) a practical and cost-effective communication tool between publishers and suppliers and b) allow for the speed and efficiency of commercial distribution systems.

The Irish ISSN Centre at the National Library of Ireland

One of a network of over 90 national centres worldwide, the ISSN Centre at the National Library of Ireland is responsible for assigning ISSNs, free of charge, to serials published in the Republic of Ireland. Over 4,000 Irish serials have been assigned ISSNs. The Centre is also responsible for contributing Irish records to the world database of ISSN numbers, known as the ISSN Register, maintained by the ISSN International Centre in Paris.

To apply for an ISSN, contact the Irish ISSN Centre, National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, D02 P638, (01) 6030351 Fax: (01) 6030289, issnirl@nli.ie. https://www.nli.ie/en/issn.aspx

Barcode Ireland barcodeireland.ie wish you the best of Irish in getting your serial out and into the world!





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