We’ve been hearing rumblings about publication date confusion when it comes to digital books. I’m going to cover publication dates here—for ebooks and print books—to settle the matter once and for all.
Part of the confusion seems to be around backlist titles that are converted to ebooks. Which date should I use, the date the ebook is available or the original publication date of the print book?
One of the most important things to remember about ONIX is that it represents this product (a.k.a., format) and only this product: the product represented by the ISBN that the ONIX record is describing. You can—and should!—use the Related Product composite to link your record to the other available products. For example, in your ebook’s metadata point to the print editions. Retailers both like and need this information. But in the end everything in the record should only describe the format attached to the ISBN.
When you’re listing publication dates for your product—whether it’s a print book, audio book, or ebook—here’s what you need to know:
Publication Date (PR.20.5)
The publication date is always the date on which that this product was first published. That means if an ebook comes out on October 20, 2010, the publication date in ONIX would be 20101020. It doesn’t matter if a hardcover version was out on August 28, 1984. The publication date is connected to this product alone.
Think of it this way: If you were releasing a mass-market edition of a title that was previously released in hardcover, you wouldn’t use the publication date from the hardcover—that mass market was published on a specific date and the publication date reflects that. It works exactly the same way for digital products.
Year First Published (PR.20.13)
If you want to connect the product that your ONIX record is describing back to the first version published, you can use the Year First Published element. This element lets you list the year when this work first appeared, in any language or edition. It may be the same as the copyright year, but it may not.
For example: if you are publishing an ebook version of the work on October 20, 2010, but the original version of that work was published in 1984, then you could list both a publication date that reflects the ebook publication date and a year first published date that reflects the pubication date of the first format, like this:
This confusion really shouldn’t exist: As far as metadata is concerned, all formats are individual products whether they are print books, audio books, or ebooks. So, you should be creating separate metadata for your ebooks just like you do for your print books.
Resist the temptation to trade information using your own rules. Maybe you don’t have a way to export an element or maybe you’re a retailer trying to create an easy workaround. The solution is NOT to change the meaning of Publication Date in ONIX. If you have a business need for a piece of information, it’s worth the effort to do it right.
Want something added and need the industry to agree with you? There’s an industry committee for that, so talk to us. ONIX is your standard.
I’ll be back soon with another BNC 101 on pub date vs. release date. Stay tuned.