If you have published or are going to publish any serial publication, such as newsletters, magazines, journals, newspapers, directories, annual reports or yearbooks and the like – any title which is an on-going publication that is – you will need to buy an ISSN barcode for your work before you go to print. The ISSN is the International Standard Serial Number and allows retailers, libraries, and any other entity which deals with large amounts of serials to locate and track each issue of your publication. Another benefit of having an ISSN assigned is that your serial will be automatically included in the International Serials Directory Database, offering international publicity for your title. Without an ISSN barcode you will battle to get your publication into the major retailers in South Africa. SA Barcodes breaks down the process for you here.
What is a Serial and do I need to buy an ISSN barcode?
A serial is basically any publication – be it in print or an electronic format – which is published on a recurring basis. Any title which comes out with an issue number and date range is a serial publication – whether it is issued monthly, bi-monthly, or even once a year. These may range from normal magazines and newspapers, to scientific periodicals and journals, to memoirs and economic or financial reports. Basically if you plan to publish anything indefinitely, you will need to buy an ISSN barcode. Luckily it is not very expensive at all. SA Barcodes can offer to source your ISSN number and design the barcode for you for just R275.
So how does the ISSN work?
Unlike the ISBN barcode system which we discussed in a previous blog post, the ISSN barcode does not contain information such as country of origin or publisher information. Your ISSN simply distinguishes your serial from other serial publications – but does include information such as which issue and date range the barcode belongs to. Here is how it broken down:
The barcode is comprised of five separate numerical components:
- Prefix 977 – according to ISO standards this prefix has been assigned to identify the barcode as belonging to a serial
- The next 7 digits are the ISSN number without the final eighth digit of the ISSN code, which is the check code built into the ISSN number itself
- The next two digits are ‘variants’, which default to 0 but may be used to indicate additional information such as a price change
- The final digit is the check digit
- The main barcode may be followed by a 2- or 5-digit add-on which usually indicates the issue number – for example an 03 at the end indicates the third issue in that particular series of publications
So as you can see the ISSN barcode differs from your normal EAN retail barcode in that the ISSN number forms an integral part of the barcode itself – therefore your first step in getting an ISSN barcode is to acquire a unique ISSN for the first issue of your publication, before designing the barcode which will appear on the cover. Ideally this should appear on the top right-hand corner of your magazine or other serial; although this is not mandatory. Online publications should display their ISSN on the home page or title screen.
For most serials one ISSN is sufficient – however if your publication comes out in another language, country or in more than one format – say both print and electronic – you may need an ISSN for each of these.
Who controls the ISSN and what is the process?
The main database of ISSN numbers internationally is located in Paris. Upon receiving an ISSN application is takes about ten working days (plus-minus two weeks) for SA Barcodes to receive the ISSN number. Thereafter we can design the corresponding barcode for you within an hour.
Do take note that if you are looking for an ISSN for a title which has not yet been published you will not be able to receive an ISSN number more than six months prior to the publication of the first issue, or launch of the website if it is an online publication.
What happens if the frequency, price or title of my publication changes?
Most changes do not affect the assignment of your ISSN – including format, edition, and change of publisher; however if the title of your serial changes significantly you will need to apply for a new ISSN at least one month in advance of the issue coming out.
Is it possible for a publication to have both an ISBN and an ISSN?
Yes. This usually happens with books which come out in a series, such as a trilogy or an annual publication.
What do I need to submit for you to process my ISSN application?
So you’re keen to get cracking? Get in touch and we will send you an application form and further details. The basic information which we will require is as follows:
- Publication title
- Name of publisher
- City of publication
- Status – current serial or not yet published
- Start date of publication
- Medium – print, online etc.
- Related titles (such as after a title name change etc.)
- Company / Institution (or just publisher name if private)
You will also need to submit a copy of the proposed cover, the editorial or ‘credits’ page (this is where the journalists, editors, artists, publisher, printers etc. are displayed) and a title page if relevant. These documents must be submitted with your application or the request will be returned to us. You can send these through in PDF or JPEG format, whichever is easier for you.
If you have any questions on how to go about how to buy your barcode in South Africa do feel free to contact us or leave a comment below – we’re here to help you get your magazine, newspaper or other serial out into shops as soon as possible!