ISSN Canada

The International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) is a unique code for identifying serial publications such as periodicals, magazines, journals, newspapers, annuals, and monographic series. It provides an efficient and economical method of communication between publishers and suppliers.

Obtaining an ISSN

ISSN assignment and registration of serials is based on the country of publication. Canadian publishers of serials can obtain ISSN from ISSN Canada, a service of Library and Archives Canada, by completing the online ISSN Application Form.

Non-Canadian publishers of serials should contact the appropriate ISSN centre to request an ISSN.

ISSN are assigned free of charge to eligible Canadian serial publications.


To be eligible for an ISSN, a serial publication must have sufficient textual content and show evidence of editorial or journalistic treatment. Serials of an ephemeral nature or serials of purely local interest are excluded.

Resources excluded from ISSN assignment and registration include, but are not limited to:

  • academic (college, university) course calendars
  • calendars and agendas
  • concert and music programs
  • crossword puzzles
  • forms
  • internal publications not intended for public consumption (e.g., those posted on an intranet)
  • multi-volume sets (i.e., multi-part works)
  • personal blogs and personal websites
  • printed-on-demand issues
  • telephone books
  • trade catalogues and advertisements
    • publishers’ catalogues
    • shopping catalogues

Contact us

ISSN Canada
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0N4

Telephone: 819-994-6895
Toll free in Canada and the U.S.: 1–866–578–7777 (select 1+7+4)
Fax: 819-997-6209

About ISSN

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

The ISSN is an internationally recognized identification code for serial publications. An ISSN is an eight-digit standard number that becomes a permanent attribute of a serial for as long as it is issued under the same title. Unlike the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), which contains country and publisher elements, the ISSN has no inherent meaning and serves only to uniquely identify a serial. When the title of a serial changes, a new ISSN must be assigned. The ISSN of a ceased or changed serial title must never be reused.

ISSN are assigned by national or 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 with precision (e.g., purchase orders, database searching).

Definition of a serial publication

A "serial" is a publication in any medium that is issued in successive parts and intended to be continued indefinitely. Each issue of a serial usually bears a numerical and/or chronological designation (e.g., volume and issue number, and/or month and year) that distinguishes the individual issues of the serial from each other.

Serials include periodicals, magazines, journals, newsletters, newspapers, annuals (reports, yearbooks, directories, etc.), conference proceedings, and monographic series.

This definition excludes multi-volume sets consisting of a finite number of parts, even if all parts are not issued simultaneously.

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

International Standard ISO 3297

In 1971, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for the creation of International Standard Serial Numbers (ISSN) was drafted. This International Standard was officially published in 1975 as ISO 3297.

ISSN Network

The ISSN was developed within the framework of UNESCO's world science information program (UNISIST). The ISSN system is a two-tier network, with the ISSN International Centre in Paris and national or regional centres in individual member countries around the world. The ISSN International Centre records and publishes bibliographic data supplied by national or regional centres in its central registration database, the ISSN Register.

ISSN Canada

In 1973, the former National Library of Canada was designated the national centre for Canada. As a result, ISSN Canada was established and began registering Canadian serials in January 1974. ISSN Canada is responsible for assigning ISSN to serials published in Canada, and for recording and maintaining the required bibliographic data. Most new serials received by Library and Archives Canada and catalogued for the national collection are automatically registered.

ISSN Register

Information about serials registered throughout the ISSN Network is published by the ISSN International Centre in the ISSN Register, accessible through the ISSN Portal by paid subscription.

Advantages of the ISSN

Publishers are not legally obliged to obtain or use ISSN but there are many advantages to having ISSN for serial publications:

  • An ISSN identifies a serial regardless of its language or country of origin, and it distinguishes between serials with identical or similar titles as each serial is assigned a unique and non-transferable number in accordance with a standard scheme that has been internationally adopted.
  • ISSN provide an efficient and economical method of communicating data about serials between publishers, suppliers, subscription agencies, database providers, researchers, and libraries. They also provide a useful point of access to publishers' catalogues, trade directories, inventories, bibliographies, etc.
  • ISSN are used in computer databases for updating and linking files, and for retrieving and transmitting data about serials.
  • An ISSN is an essential element of the International Article Number (EAN) and Serials Industry Systems Advisory Committee (SISAC) barcodes (see Canadian Barcode Producers).
  • ISSN are used in libraries for identifying, ordering, and processing serial titles, and for checking in and claiming missing issues.
  • ISSN simplify interlibrary loan systems and union catalogue reporting and listing.

Construction of the ISSN

An ISSN consists of eight digits. These are the arabic numerals 0 to 9, except in the case of the last or check digit where an upper case letter "X" can occur. The "X" in the check digit position represents the number 10. The check digit helps guard against data transcription errors and is an essential and inseparable part of the ISSN.

To avoid confusion with other numbering systems, the number is preceded by "ISSN" and a space, and is written as two groups of four digits separated by a hyphen.


ISSN 0027-9633

ISSN 1927-226X

Importance of the title

The title of a serial publication is particularly important because an ISSN uniquely identifies a serial at the title level. A serial must have a clear and stable title from issue to issue, or from part to part, to be eligible for ISSN assignment. The same ISSN is used on every issue of a serial so long as the title remains unchanged.

Because the ISSN identifies only one title, the ISSN must change when the title changes. When a title ceases to be published, the ISSN assigned to that serial's title must never be reused. Please notify ISSN Canada of any pending title change, and avoid printing or displaying an old ISSN on a new title.

A title associated with an ISSN is also known as a key title, which can be the same as the title proper. In case of a conflict with an identical title, the key title is made unique in the ISSN Register by adding a qualifying term (such as place of publication, name of issuing body, date, or medium statement) in parentheses.

Display of the ISSN

The ISSN should appear in a prominent position in every issue of a serial publication. For printed serials, the ISSN should be displayed on the front cover (preferably in the top right-hand corner), or on the title page, caption, masthead, back cover, colophon, or editorial pages. For electronic serials, the ISSN should be displayed prominently on the title screen or main menu of the resource. The number is preceded by ISSN and a space, and should appear as two groups of four digits separated by a hyphen.

Example: ISSN 0027-9633

ISSN assigned to different media versions of a serial may appear together on each version.


ISSN 0318-6954 (Print)

ISSN 1923-6409 (Online)

When an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is also applicable, as in the case of books published in a monographic series, the two numbers should appear together, each preceded by its own prefix of letters.


ISBN 978-1-100-94660-3

ISSN 1708-0177

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

Guidelines for the presentation of serial publications

To assist readers in finding, identifying and using your serial publication, we recommend the following information be presented clearly, explicitly, and consistently on each and every issue or part:

  • title
  • name of publisher
  • place of publication
  • numbering and/or chronological designation
  • frequency
  • ISSN

Observing this best practice will help users to easily discover your serial publication and to distinguish it from other serials.

Example. Library and Archives Canada’s Signatures magazine


  • Title of serial publication: Signatures
  • Chronological designation of issue: Fall / Winter 2016
  • Name of publisher: Library and Archives Canada


  • Name of publisher and place of publication:
    Library and Archives Canada
    550 boulevard de la Cité
    Gatineau, Québec K1A 0N4
  • ISSN of print and online versions:
    ISSN 2369-4521 (Print)
    ISSN 2369-453X (Online)
  • Frequency: Signatures is published twice a year

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

  • 1. Are different ISSN required for different file formats of the same online serial?

    No. The same ISSN is used for all online versions of a serial, including PDF and HTML file formats, and versions for mobile phones and e-reader devices.

  • 2. How many ISSN are required for English-language and French-language editions of the same serial?

    It depends. When a serial is published in an English-language edition and a French-language edition, and each language edition is available in both print and online versions, a total of four unique ISSN is assigned.

    Example Language and medium
    ISSN 1928-7313 (Print) English-only document, print medium
    ISSN 1928-6767 (Online) English-only document, electronic medium
    ISSN 1928-7348 (Imprimé) French-only document, print medium
    ISSN 1928-7275 (En ligne) French-only document, electronic medium

    When the print version of a serial is a bilingual edition (e.g., text in English and French on inverted pages, text in English and French in parallel columns), but the online versions are published as separate language editions, then three ISSN are required: one for the printed bilingual edition and one for each separate online language edition.

    Example Language and medium
    ISSN 2291-9384 (Print) Bilingual document, print medium
    ISSN 2291-9341 (Online) English-only document, electronic medium
    ISSN 2291-935X (En ligne) French-only document, electronic medium

    If both the print and online versions of a serial are bilingual editions with English and French text in parallel columns, or with articles in either English or French, two unique ISSN are assigned.

    Example Language and medium
    ISSN 1193-8536 (Print) Bilingual document, print medium
    ISSN 1918-8358 (Online) Bilingual document, electronic medium
  • 3. What changes require a new ISSN?

    A new ISSN is required when the title of a serial publication is changed. Changes in numbering, date, frequency, or place of publication do not require a new ISSN assignment.

  • 4. Is a new ISSN required for each issue of a serial publication?

    No. An ISSN identifies a serial publication at the title level. It does not identify individual serial issues. The same ISSN is used on each and every issue as long as the serial title remains the same.

  • 5. Is a monographic series eligible for an ISSN?

    Yes. A monographic series is a group of separate publications related to one another by the fact that each publication bears, in addition to its own distinctive title, a collective title applying to the group as a whole. In order to be eligible for ISSN assignment, a monographic series title (i.e., the collective title) must appear on each publication in addition to the distinctive title of the individual book.


    • Title of a monographic series: Crime and justice research paper series
    • Title of an individual book in this monographic series: Exploring crime patterns in Canada
  • 6. 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 13-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 978-0-9868892-3-3

    Some types of publications, such as annuals or biennials, may be assigned both an ISSN and an ISBN. Books published in a monographic series should have both an ISBN for the individual book and an ISSN for the entire series.

  • 7. Is there a legal requirement for Canadian publishers to obtain an ISSN?

    No. An ISSN is a voluntary identifier and Canadian publishers of serials are not legally obliged to obtain or display an ISSN.

  • 8. What is the relationship between ISSN and copyright?

    None. Registering a serial with an ISSN does not confer copyright protection or exclusive rights to that title. Multiple serial publications can have similar or identical titles.

    For information on copyright, please contact the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).

  • 9. How do federal government publishers obtain a Government of Canada Catalogue Number?

    Please contact the Depository Services Program (DSP) to obtain a Government of Canada Catalogue Number for serial publications issued by Government of Canada departments and agencies.

  • 10. What steps can researchers and scholars take to identify journals issued by so-called predatory publishers?

    Think. Check. Submit” is an international campaign that aims to help scholars identify trustworthy journals for their research.

    The Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL) has produced a guide on assessing journal quality.

Canadian barcode producers

Many publishers choose to print a barcode as well as an ISSN on printed issues of their serial publications. A barcode facilitates the distribution and sale of serials. It simplifies the processing of serials in libraries, and may therefore result in fewer claims, speedier shelving, and decreased costs for both libraries and publishers.

The ISSN International Centre in Paris provides information on barcoding on its website.

ISSN Canada does not supply barcodes. To obtain a barcode, please contact GS1 Canada or consult the sample list of Canadian barcode producers [PDF 55 KB].

Note: This list is provided for informational purposes only. Library and Archives Canada is not responsible for the accuracy, reliability, or currency of the information in this list or for the services provided by these companies. The inclusion of a company on this list does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by Library and Archives Canada.

ISSN Canada recommends the use of either the EAN-13 or the SISAC (also called Code 128) barcode because both display the ISSN in conjunction with the barcode.

GS1 Canada also provides these types of barcodes and the UPC (Universal Product Code), which does not incorporate the ISSN.

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