CIP, ISSN, ISBN – What’s the Difference?

By Kyle Kutz on May 9, 2019
eContent Pro
CIP, ISSN, ISBN – What’s the Difference?

Those new to the publishing industry can easily be overwhelmed by its many, many rules and regulations. Nothing is quite as simple as it seems, especially when trying to, let's say, publish a serial, or even nonserial, series, such as with books, magazines, newspapers, etc.

Let's address a few common, preemptive measures taken to properly catalogue these type of releases – CIPs, ISSNs, and ISBNs.

What Is CIP?

If an author, or publisher, is interested in marketing their release to libraries across the United States, acquiring a CIP (Cataloging in Publication) record is paramount.

Before books are published, the United States Library of Congress (LOC) prepares a bibliographic record – this bibliographic, or CIP, data is included on the book’s copyright page upon release. The LOC also distributes the CIP data electronically to libraries, profiling services, and book vendors across the globe. The CIP data makes it possible for libraries to process elements of a work’s bibliographical information and provide access to it in library catalogs. Libraries prefer new releases have CIP data, as it allows for efficient cataloging, and traditional libraries may even refuse to take books without a CIP record.

The Library of Congress urges publishers to submit their application at least six months prior to the scheduled print release. This will allow ample time for the application to be processed, CIP data supplied to the publisher, and said data be printed into the book. CIP processing is cost-free, but a complimentary copy of the book must be sent to Library of Congress officials for verification. Publishers that do not comply with submitting a copy of the publication may be suspended from the CIP program.

Similar to the U.S. CIP, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, the British Library contracts the administration of the Cataloguing-in-Publication (CIP) Programme and provides records of new and forthcoming books in advance of publication to the British National Bibliography (BNB).

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What Is an ISSN?

Serial publications—magazines, for example—require an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) code.

ISSNs are eight-digit codes that identify journals, periodicals, newspapers, and all other types of continuing resources released in set, regularly occurring intervals (e.g., monthly). What makes these resources, well, continuing is the lack of a set termination date. This means that, in the case of newspapers or magazines, production begins with no end in sight, only to be cut short, presumably, through unforeseen circumstance. These circumstances could range in nature from financial to personal but occur without premeditation. Serial publications that may appear in both print and electronic format would require a separate ISSN for each medium.

In a series, all volumes, or issues, will share the same ISSN code, identifying all releases within a serial series—such as The New York Times—as being part of the same joint, continuing resource. After all, monthly issues of a newspaper, for example, technically do fall under the same title, despite slight changes to the date or edition. This differs, however, from a book series, such as Harry Potter, which has every new addition to the series undergo drastic title changes. These types of nonserial releases require an ISBN.

Publishers must request an ISSN identifier from either an ISSN National Centre, if one is available in your country, or ISSN International Centre, if the publisher is based in a country without a National Centre. ISSN numbers are issued in advance of publication, free of charge, through an online application process. Applicants will need to address key characteristics of their proposed publication – the title, publication frequency, start date, etc. Upon approval, publishers will obtain their ISSN code accordingly for inclusion on their serial publication. The appropriate Centre will also be sent a copy of said publication’s first issue in order to validate Centre records (British Library).

ISSNs do not expire, remaining valid for as long as the serial publication is in print. Even if a serial publication undergoes a hiatus, picking up where it left off after—for example—one year out of print, its previous ISSN will still be valid for immediate use. This circumvents subjection of publishers to some form of re-application process. There are, however, other circumstances that may require re-filing for ISSN. A title change, for instance, would require a new ISSN to be issued to a serial publication.

What Is an ISBN?

Publishers of standalone, traditional books should familiarize themselves with International Standard Book Numbers (ISBNs).

ISBNs are 10- to 13-digit codes that identify a particular book, or edition of a book, for dealers, libraries, or just about anybody searching the designated ISBN number.

While an ISBN can be obtained free of charge in many countries, in the United States and United Kingdom, ISBN numbers must be purchased from Bowker or Nielsen – US citizens are limited to Bowker (Self-Publishing School).

ISBNs can be bought online, pre-publication, either as single units or in bulk orders of 10, 100, or 1,000. Bulk orders provide discounts, which are especially appealing to publishers. These codes do not expire, meaning that they can be bought in bulk ahead of time, at a markdown, and assigned, one by one, to any future books published. Essentially, for small-scale publishers, these bulk orders could last a lifetime.

Publications that may appear in both print and electronic format would require a separate ISBN for each medium. In addition, publications that are printed in both hard cover and soft cover options will also require separate ISBNs for each option.

Is There a Time That I Need Both an ISSN and ISBN?

The main difference between an ISSN and ISBN pertains to release intervals – As we have explored, ISSNs are used for serial publications, released in regular intervals, while ISBNs are used for editions of a book released once, not in regular intervals.

As mentioned earlier, each release within a nonserial series is identified with a unique ISBN code. This is also the case with books that aren’t part of a series. What makes a release nonserial is the lack of a preset installment schedule—monthly, weekly, or otherwise—as well as an understanding that these series are bound to end at some point. While newsworthy events will transpire daily, until the end of time, J.K. Rowling cannot pump out books infinitely, no matter how talented she is.

Interestingly enough, “Books (monographs) published within a series and annual / biennial publications are eligible for both ISBN and ISSN assignment” (British Library).

How does this happen? Well, an ISBN would identify books within the series, with a different ISBN code being assigned for each book. An ISSN, on the other hand, could then be used to identify the overarching monographic series, or “annual / biennial” series, by title, as a whole. So, that’s how one book can end up with both an ISBN and also be associated with an ISSN code.

Does this seem complex? It’s okay, many agree.

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