There are a lot of potential dates that can be listed in an ONIX record. In this post, we’re going to focus on Publication Date vs On Sale Date.
Publication Date (PR. 20.5)
It is the date of first publication of this product. It’s true that this date is often set way ahead of time, so it’s really your best estimate of when you expect the product to be published. It is important to note, though, that this date is in no way an embargo date: if the book (physical or digital) arrives to the retailer before this stated publication date they are allowed to put it on their shelves (again, physical or digital) and sell it.
On Sale Date (PR.24.35)
If you want to state a strict on-sale date (a.k.a. release date, embargo date, or laydown date) for a product, then it must be listed in the On Sale Date element.
Seems simple, right? The problem is that it has been common practice for publishers and retailers to rely on separate printed contracts for embargoed titles in the brick-and-mortar world. By handling it this way, neither side has been using the On Sale Date element in ONIX. Publishers and distributors have never had to fill it out or create systems that can support on-sale dates. This wouldn’t really be a problem if ebooks weren’t on the rise: When we talk about digital products, the On Sale Date is the only date the retailer can use to hold a product back from sale.
A publisher sends a batch of EPUB files to a retailer on July 10, 2010. This batch of files contains all the publisher’s EPUB files for its fall list. The publisher has sent the files early because it wants to make sure there are no problems with the files and the retailer can list them properly. Because a Publication Date is technically only an estimate in advance of the date, if the Publication Date of one of those EPUB files is September 10, 2010 the retailer can technically put the ebook up for sale on July 10, 2010 anyway. The date that should be used to hold back a book if it is sent in advance is the On Sale Date.
Different publishing and retail operations often use the terms Publication Date, Release Date and On Sale Date differently. That’s fine for casual conversation or internal communications. But when it comes to ONIX and communicating with retailers, the meanings aren’t that flexible.
Publication Date in ONIX does NOT necessarily correlate to review/publicity dates. It can be used to indicate when the book should be available for sale, and if reviews end up corresponding to when the books are shelved then all the better!
On Sale Date in ONIX does NOT mean when a publisher releases a title from the warehouse (not a shipment date). It’s a retailer release date and it is strict.
Publishers and Distributors
Use the On Sale Date. More is always better when it comes to ONIX. You want to be crystal clear and avoid confusion, especially when a title is embargoed.
As we all shift to the digital space at different paces, retailers have to let publishers and distributors know what level of usage they’re currently at. Make your ONIX requirements clear.
If an On Sale Date is the only element that will hold a title back from being sold in your store, then your trading partners need to know that. Same goes if, for some reason, you don’t look at the On Sale Date at all. If that’s the case, trading partners need to know that their books will be sold as soon as they arrive at your store.
In the end, it’s all about communication: ONIX is intended to be a method of communication between trading partners, but all parties also need to know how everyone else is currently using it. For all our digital advancements, we still need to talk to each other. Speak with your trading partners or talk to us and we’ll spread the word.
Want to know more about On Sale Dates? Take a look at BISG’s On Sale Date Compliance: Recommended Best Practices.
For more background check out last week’s BNC 101 on Publication Dates.