What is a serial?

A serial is a publication made up of a number of parts issued in sequence and linked by a continuous title. A serial title has a 'designation i.e. each issue or part bears a number and/or date in sequence of publication.
A serial is a continuous publication, intended to continue indefinitely, and includes periodicals such as magazines (e.g. Business Review Weekly), newspapers, newsletters, annual reports, yearbooks, directories, and journals (e.g. History Australia)
Monographs in series may also be a form of serial. These are books which have a distinctive title as well as a collective or 'series title' (e.g. Working paper; Research monograph). All books in the series will be issued by the same publisher in a uniform style, carry a series title  and be in a numerical sequence. The series title of the monograph in series may be eligible for an ISSN.
Serials can be published in printed form, or in a range of alternative formats including microfiche, microfilm, CD-ROM and digital version. Serials in all formats may be eligible for the allocation of an ISSN. Where a serial is published in more than one medium, a separate ISSN is usually required for each format. 'Print on demand' is not eligible, e.g. where a print issue is created from the digital version (from pdf).

What is not a serial?

  • one-off 'book-a-zines' or ephemeral publications
  • posters/broadsheets 
  • magazine or newspaper special editions
  • serials not intended for public circulation
  • calendars
  • diaries
  • sales and mail order catalogues
  • fill-in puzzle, crossword style books namely newsagency lines
  • commercial websites
  • personal web pages and weblogs (blogs)

Multi-volume books are not considered to be serials since they are planned to be published in a limited number of volumes, even if all volumes are not issued simultaneously. Series which are intended to comprise a definite number of individual parts and loose-leaf publications intended for updating with replacement pages are also excluded.

 If Australian publishers are unsure whether their publication may be eligible for an ISSN, they should contact the Australian ISSN Agency.

What is an ISSN?

The ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is a unique code for the identification of serial publications. It can be used wherever information on serials needs to be recorded or communicated. The ISSN is the serials equivalent of the ISBN (International Standard Book Number).

Why is an ISSN useful?

The ISSN system provides booksellers, publishers, researchers and librarians with a simple and accurate method of identifying a particular serial, even where there is more than one serial with the same or similar title. The ISSN may be incorporated into a barcode. An ISSN is not mandatory for publication.

How is an ISSN allocated and registered?

The supply of ISSN to Australian publishers is a free service provided by the National Library. The full advantages of participation in the ISSN system are achieved only when the number actually appears on the publication. If possible an ISSN should be allocated prior to publication. For online serials an ISSN is allocated after the first issue has been published and the URL has been confirmed.
ISSNs are not assigned more than three months before the publication of the first issue.
Apply for an ISSN using our online application form.
Your application will be assessed by Agency staff and, if eligible, you will be assigned a number within 10 working days.

Information/documents needed for ISSN assignment

Please fill in the web form carefully and  attach/communicate the following documents/information:
  • For print and electronic versions: complete issue or copy (in pdf) of the cover, title page, table of contents and editorial page. The editorial page must show the name and physical Australian address of the publisher.
  • For an online version: the URL (electronic address) of the publication.The name and address of the publisher must be displayed on the publication.
  • For a mobile version (for e-readers and smartphones): screenshots of the title screen and/or of any other screens showing the name and the address of the publisher.
  • For a CD-ROM version: sample or copy (in pdf) of the label affixed on the disc and/or on the container with the name and address of the publisher printed on.
  • Please note that it is particularly important for the name of the publisher and the place of publication to be printed or displayed on the resource so that the ISSN centre responsible for the ISSN assignment can be determined accurately.

Legal Deposit

When a new serial is published, the first copy bearing the ISSN should be forward to the National Library in accordance with legal deposit. Once the first issue is received the registration of the ISSN may then be completed and the details forwarded for addition to the ISSN International Register.
Offline copies of serials should be sent to:
Australian ISSN Agency
National Library of Australia
Online copies of serials can be deposited through the National edeposit service
A separate ISSN should be allocated to:
  • each different serial title;
  • each continuing supplement of a serial;
  • each numbered monograph in series. Unnumbered 'scholarly series' may also receive an ISSN. However, unnumbered commercial publishers’ series (e.g. Australian Classics) will not. Each individual volume in a monographic series may also have an ISBN (International Standard Book Number);
  • each continuing sub-series, i.e. a separately identified series within a main series; and
  • each format of a serial where it is published in more than one medium (e.g. online and print).

Change of title

As the purpose of an ISSN is to establish a unique identifier, any change either in the words or in the order of words in a serial title will require the allocation of a new number. If the serial title is generic or common (e.g. bulletin, journal, newsletter), a change in the name of the institution or association responsible for the publication will also require the allocation of a new ISSN.

Australian publishers are requested to notify the Agency of any pending title change, and to avoid printing an old ISSN on a new title.

How an ISSN is constructed

An ISSN is eight digits long, consisting of seven digits forming a unique title number, followed by a computer check digit. The check digit is a device which guards against the computer accepting an incorrectly transcribed number. It is calculated from the other seven digits and is an efficient system for trapping errors made in copying out the numbers. The system can sometimes result in a check digit with a value of ten. In this case the roman numeral X is used as the check digit, e.g.
ISSN 0810-199X

Where should the ISSN appear?

The ISSN should appear in a prominent position on each issue, i.e. near the title or publisher details. The number should always be printed in two groups of four digits separated by a hyphen.

International ISSN system

The ISSN system was established within the framework of UNESCO’s World Science Information Program (UNISIST) to control the registration of serials and ISSN allocations worldwide. It is a two-tiered network, with an International Centre in Paris and National Centres in individual member countries.
The Australian ISSN Agency was established in the National Library of Australia in 1973. The Agency has sole responsibility for ISSN allocation to serial titles published in Australia. Details of all serial titles registered by the Agency are sent to the International Centre and this data is published in ISSN Online and ISSN Compact (CD-ROM).

Contact details

Australian ISSN Agency
National Library of Australia
Canberra ACT 2600
ISSN application forms are available by request or online

Other contacts

ISBN Agency Australia
Level One, 607 St Kilda Road
(PO Box 6509, St Kilda Road Central VIC 8008)

Phone: +61-3-8517-8333
Fax: +61-3-8517-8399
Email: mailto:myidentifiers@thorpe.com.au
Internet: https://www.myidentifiers.com.au/

Australian Copyright Council
245 Chalmers Street
Redfern NSW 2016

Phone: (02) 9318 1788
Fax: (02) 9698 3536
Email: info@copyright.org.au
Internet: http://www.copyright.org.au