Barcodes For Magazines & Periodicals

Magazine barcode identification is different than grocery and consumer products. Barcodes for magazines are dependent on the type of magazine/periodical and where the magazine will be scanned. The UPC/EAN barcode symbols used on magazines/periodicals adhere to the global GS1 standards but the actual data identifiers may vary. Certain situations call for GTIN-12 (UPC-12) identification and others follow the ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) standards.

There is an abundance of incorrect information published online so please review the information below carefully.

Are Barcodes Required for Self-Published Magazines?

Whether you are a small self-publisher or a large magazine publishing house, the primary basis for whether barcodes are required is still based on the type of periodical and where your magazines will be sold.

If a magazine or periodical is only going to be distributed directly to consumers, there is no need for barcode identification. This is common for direct magazine subscriptions, purchases from your website, or through trade shows.

In the example to the right, Time Magazine did not include the barcode on the cover for direct-to-consumer shipments but printed a separate version with a barcode for sales in stores.

UPC Barcodes for Magazines Primarily Sold in Stores

The vast majority of magazines sold in US retail stores adhere to the GS1 global standards and use a 12-digit GTIN (UPC) as the identifier. The actual barcode symbol is a UPC-A and commonly includes a supplemental 2-digit add-on to denote the issue.


Similar to other products sold in retail, a UPC (GTIN-12) identifier is used to identify magazines in a point-of-sale environment. Magazine publishers can obtain a single GTIN barcode if they have only a single title or license a UPC Company Prefix if they provide many titles. Magazines normally have a frequency of publishing and the use of the 2-digit supplemental barcode is used to differentiate each release.

BIPAD Number - Unique UPC structure used by a few wholesalers

Before the Uniform Code Council (UCC) merged with the EAN organizations and formed GS1, certain industries were given exemptions to adhere directly to standards. The consumer magazine industry created a 3rd party "for profit" organization that assigned 5-digit item numbers (BIPAD numbers). The BIPAD organization obtained 2 legacy UPC Company Prefixes from the UCC and provided BIPAD numbers.

In the above example, 074470 is one of BIPAD's Company Prefixes and 00001 is the title's assigned BIPAD number. The BIPAD numbering system was used by some of the larger wholesalers/distributors early on and is still used by a few companies today. The pricing structure starts at $375 and additional information can be viewed at Since magazine editions normally get updated and older editions removed from shelves, publishers only needed 1 year of barcodes. They could reuse the barcodes IF there was not a price change. If the price changed, they would use BIPAD's other Company Prefix for the updated price editions. Since GS1 banned the reuse of GTINs a few years ago, this practice is slowly going away. The example below illustrates a BIPAD barcode.

2-Digit Supplement

Some publishers may wish to communicate additional information in a barcode to meet their requirements. A 2-digit add-on number provides more information about a particular publication of the printed item but is not required for the identification of the title itself.

GS1 recommends the use of the following schema for 2-digit add-ons.

  • Weeklies: Number of the week (01-53)
  • Bi-weeklies: Number of the first week of the respective period (01-53)
  • Monthlies: Number of the month (01-12)
  • Bi-monthlies: Number of the first month of the respective period (01-12)
  • Quarterlies: Number of the first month of the respective period (01-12)
  • Season Period: First digit = first digit of the year, second digit for the season(1 for spring, 2 for summer, 3 for autumn, 4 for winter)
  • Bi-annual period: First digit= last digit of the year, second digit = number of the first season of the respective period
  • Annuals: First digit = last digit of year, second digit =5
  • Special Intervals: Consecutively numbered 01-99

Information that can be encoded in a 5-digit add-on symbol includes the actual date of the issue, in order to differentiate between successive issues.

Through the ISSN Network, which consists of more than 90 ISSN centers globally, the ISSN is coordinated internationally. The Library of Congress's U.S. ISSN Center is the country's representative on the ISSN network.

What is an ISSN?

An ISSN (International Standard Serial Number) is an 8-digit code that is used to identify all types of newspapers, journals, magazines, and periodicals in all media, print and electronic. As per the global standards, the ISSN should be ongoing publications, including:

  • newspapers
  • annual publications (reports, directories, lists, etc.)
  • journals
  • magazines

Despite the broad definition of applicable publications, many consumer-based journals and newspapers are solely identified by a GTIN, as indicated above. Similar to a GTIN, the role of an ISSN is to identify a publication and it does not convey any intrinsic meaning.

What is the format of an ISSN?

The ISSN takes the form of the acronym ISSN followed by two groups of four digits, separated by a hyphen. The eighth digit is a check digit calculated according to a modulus 11 algorithm on the basis of the 7 preceding digits; this eighth control digit may be an “X” if the result of the computing is equal to “10”, in order to avoid any ambiguity. The following are examples:

  • ISSN 0317-8471
  • ISSN 1050-124X

How is an ISSN Displayed as a Barcode?

An EAN-13 (GTIN-13) barcode is used to represent an ISSN. Just as the "country code" 978 is used for books (Bookland), the country code prefix 977 is used for serial publication identification. There are three formats for how the ISSN is display:

1. The 8-digit ISSN is converted to a 13-digit number by adding a 977 to the beginning, taking away the check-digit, adding two numbers (00) to the end and recalculating the check-digit. The number is then created as an image using EAN-13 which can easily be read by all barcode scanners and is essentially the same as other consumer products with EAN-13 barcodes. In this case, the same number would be printed in each issue of the magazine.

2. Again, the 8-digit ISSN is converted to a 13-digit number. However, this time, the ’00’ added to the end is changed various times to create a different EAN-13 image each time. In this case, a separate barcode image would be created for each issue of the magazine. These two digits are commonly referred to as the sequent variant. When there is a price change, the variant is incremented to denote a unique GTIN-13.

3. The final format involves converting the ISSN in the same way as option one, however, in this case, an additional 2-digit supplement code is added to the end creating a 15-digit (EAN-13+2) number. The supplement changes for each issue and can be done on a monthly (01-12) or weekly (01-52) basis. The same 2-digit configurations as referenced for UPCs are used.

How Do US Magazine Publishers Apply for an ISSN?

In the US, ISSN assignments are provided by the Library of Congress. Unlike GS1 US for UPC prefixes/assignments, the Library of Congress DOES NOT charge any upfront or renewal fees. The first step is to create an account in ISSN Uplink, the system for U.S. publishers to apply for an ISSN. A link to Uplink and requirements for obtaining an ISSN from the U.S. ISSN Center is available at

The Library of Congress will ONLY provide the 8-digit ISSN and high-resolution digital .eps ISSN barcodes can be generated at

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