ISSN Barcodes Explained

ISSN Barcode Example

An ISSN (for International Standard Serial Number) uniquely identifies a serial publication or periodical. ISSNs are issued and assigned by the ISSN organization. The ISSN is an eight digit number, the first seven digits are the actual number, the last digit is the ISSN check digit (this can also be an 'X', representing the check digit "10").

What barcode type is used for ISSN?

EAN 13 is used to represent an ISSN in a machine-readable fashion. The eight digit ISSN is converted into a GTIN-13 as follows:

  • ISSN prefix: three digits, usually "977"

  • ISSN number: the first seven digits of the ISSN without the hyphen

  • Issue or price version: two digits which the publisher can use to identify price variations, default to "00"

  • Check digit: the EAN 13 check digit as described here

Note that the EAN code does not contain any pricing information. The price of the magazine or newspaper is looked up at checkout in a database with the ISSN as key.

ISSN to GTIN-13 conversion example

The ISSN number shall be "1144-875X":

  1. Begin with "977"
  2. Add first seven digits of ISBN: "9771144875"
  3. Add two digits for price version or set to "00": "977114487500"
  4. Add EAN 13 check digit: "9771144875007"

To aid data entry in case the barcode scan fails, it is standard practice to put the complete eight characters of the ISSN above the barcode, the text reading "ISSN", followed by the hyphenized number, see opening image for an example.

All Softmatic barcode generators supporting ISSN creation will automatically format the ISSN as outlined above, see screenshot of Softmatic BarcodePlus V5 below.

ISSN add-on barcodes, issue numbers

ISSN barcodes can carry an optional add-on barcode, sometimes also called a satellite code. The add-on, also known as "EAN-2", encodes another two digits, representing the issue number.

Example of an ISSN barcode without add-on:

Sample ISSN Barcode without issue number

Example of an ISSN barcode with add-on, encoding the issue number "12":

Sample ISSN Barcode with Issue Number

ISSN barcode SC sizes

EAN standard SC sizes also apply when ISSNs are encoded in an EAN 13 symbol (see these references for specifications). The module width and height are only allowed to vary within certain limits. The default, or 100%, size is called SC 2, resulting in a code that is roughly 26mm (c. 1") high and 37mm (c. 1.5") wide. It is permitted to vary the size down to 80% and up to 200%. In addition it is permitted to reduce the height to some degree, this is known as truncation.

The example ISSN barcode above was created with a SC 6 size, the height was reduced to 60%.

How to get an ISSN barcode

ISSN are issued and maintained by the ISSN organization. The ISSN assignment process is outlined here. After obtaining the numbers, the Softmatic barcode generators can be used to create standards compliant ISSN barcodes, see the following sections for options.

Create ISSN Barcodes in Illustrator, InDesign

Easy to use barcode plug-ins and extensions for Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. For more videos, see the Softmatic Youtube Channel

The Softmatic barcode plug-ins and extensions for InDesign are Illustrator are available from the Softmatic store.

ISSN Barcode Generator

Softmatic BarcodePlus V5 creates ISSN barcodes and will export the barcode as PDF / SVG (resolution-independent vector) oder raster image (PNG / TIFF). The app will automatically convert the ISSN into a GTIN-13 and will also provide the EAN 13 check digit:

ISSN Barcode Generator

Bulk Generator for ISSN Barcodes

Preferred by publishers, print shops and book stores, Softmatic BarcodeFactory V5 is our time-tested bulk barcode generator. The software will create thousands of ISSN symbols in seconds, with data coming from the built-in serial number generator, the clipboard or via import from Excel, Numbers or CSV text files. Ideal for stock production of barcodes for magazine covers and similar applications: