The national library in Norway refuses to give ISSNs to weblogs, although many weblogs clearly fit the definition of a periodical worthy of an ISSN: periodical, archived, dated, one title, some kind of serious (faglig) content, etc. Obviously the ISSN system, with its paultry 8 digits, was never intended for true mass publication of periodicals, and they’re worried blogs might flood the system. But as Jon writes, flatly refusing blogs entry confirms A. J. Liebling’s statement: “freedom of the press belongs to whoever owns one”.

No, perhaps it doesn’t matter much now. I’m sure more people read my blog than would read an article I published in an obscure, Norwegian, ISSN-encrusted journal. Blogs are free. But a journal with an ISSN is documented for posterity, archived in libraries and defined as important. Publishing in something with an ISSN even gives more research points, if you’re an academic expected to earn such things. On the other hand, the reply Anders received when he applied for an ISSN suggests that there’s an international addition to the ISSN rules happening, where personal websites are simply ruled out.

Jon also compares this to the Se og H¯r debate. Se og H¯r (“see and hear”) is the trashiest of Norwegian weekly magazines, full of scandals about royals and people who’ve been on Big Brother. Now, in Norway, newspapers and books, but not magazines, are excepted from sales tax, because the availability of a broad range of newspapers, geographically and politically speaking, is seen as a prerequisite for democracy. In addition, if there’s more than one newspaper in a town, the smaller newspaper gets state funding to ensure diversity. So Se og h¯r have decided they want to be a newspaper. They’ve started publishing twice a week, which is the minimum according to the newspaper definition, have started including more photos of politicians, presumably preferably in bikinis or caught in flagrante in the beds of lovers, and they’ve already taken the sales tax off the pricetag, glibly assuming that the powers that be will accept this. Of course, this is causing some discussion, because although they probably fulfil the formal requirements of the definition of “newspaper” (except they’re not printed on news-paper) that’s not what people mean by a newspaper.

Oh, and I do have an ISSN. I was the first person in Norway to think of applying, and they gave me one because my blog fulfilled the requirements. They hadn’t thought of the exception yet. ISSNs are probably passÈ anyway…

1 Comment

  1. Jamie

    ISSNs are as important as they have ever been. It certainly is not passÈ for your blog to have one!

    Sure it may not have the cachet it once had for people who are not interested in finding publications, but for librarians, archivists, and future scholars it certainly matters.

    I’ve always thought it was a Good Thing that your blog was assigned as ISSN, although I’ve sometimes wondered how diffferent `editions’ get tracked given that you change entries. (I don’t have a problem with your practice by the way.) But when one realizes that major newspapers print different editions in different timezones all with the same ISSN it seems far less important.

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