Thursday, 20 February 2014

Little Essays on the Rules (7) Print on Demand and Publication Dates

Philip Harvey
This week my colleague Helen Greenwood at St John’s College in Auckland raised the question of dates in print on demand books. She has a book with a statement on the verso: This Print on Demand digital edition created … 2003.

“We already have a record in our catalogue for the 1990 original,” she says, “bearing the same ISBN. Do we have to create a new record for this 2003 POD edition? What happens if there are other PODs with different dates on the verso, do we create a new record for each of them as well? Where does this fit in the WEMI scheme of things?”

Between the idea and the reality falls the shadow, as Eliot liked to say. The idea that the digital edition was published in 2003 comes up against the reality that the edition itself was first published in 1990. Plainly we are looking at the same text in different media. Even though I personally treat PODs as impressions, because they are impressions, a separate record has to be created because the work is manifested differently.  

But are Print on Demand books (either print or digital) really to be thought of as impressions or reprints? Nowadays the producers of these works use any of a handful of invented publisher names, none of which carry much conviction beyond their purpose of selling stock online. Sometimes the producers don’t even bother with a publisher name. The Greenwood example seems not to care for the fact that the text first came out in 1990, not 2003. Such breaches of the conventions of publishing have become commonplace, which is why cataloguers some days need to be consoled with a second cup of tea.

The real issue, I think, is about the correct bibliographical date. Cataloguers are trained to rightly identify the exact date of publication, because our catalogues are expected to be authoritative. Students in their essays and theses, authors in their publications, are expected as writers to supply in citations and bibliographies the actual year the book came out, not some POD date that shows up in the library record, whether for paper or digital book, or from the back of the book next to somewhere like Lexington, Kentucky. When writers refer to the library catalogue, the unstated expectation is that it supplies accurate information. It remains the job of the catalogue record to give that firm, first date of edition. Cataloguers are being left to guess if and when a POD was first published, because the date history is not supplied in the item in hand (or is that in eye? in your face, perhaps?) and yet we know from the look of the work that it was published many years ago in print form. Do we scour old bibliographies and online sources to confirm an actual date? It’s our responsibility, but is that a productive use of our time? RDA encourages copyright date and maybe this needs to be included whenever possible, as it may in many cases be the only guide to the first date of publication.

Jenny Langenstrass (Fisher Library, University of Sydney) has replied to this today on the RDA-List by treating the POD as a discrete item. Her notes field is reminiscent of how we once treated books published by proper reprint companies.  

Hi Philip,
We would create a new record that can be shared in a network, so the 2nd date in the 008 is fairly open, as is the date in the 264. I hope these examples help.

Example an "on demand" book from University Microfilms International
008/06 (type of date/publication status) = q
008 960912q196520uumiu           000 0 eng d
264 #0 Ann Arbor, Michigan :|bUniversity Microfilms Inc.,|c[not before 1965]
500 ## Produced on demand.
534 ## |pOriginally published:|cLondon : Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965.

Example of an "on demand" PDF which is printed out and foldered
008     130620q201320uuenka          000 0 eng d    (2013 is when ABOUT Publishing first made the resource available)

245 10 Automotive sensors :|btrends & forecasts to 2020 /|cby John Day.
264 #1 London :|bABOUT Publishing Group,|c[not before 2013]
500 ## Published on demand.

590 ## Downloaded and printed for the University of Sydney Library, 2013.


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