Edition (book)

Edition (book)

The bibliographical definition of an edition includes all copies of a book printed “from substantially the same setting of type,” including all minor typographical variants.

First edition

According to the definition of "edition" above, a book printed today, by the same publisher, and from the same type as when it was first published, is still the "first edition" of that book to a bibliographer. However, book collectors generally use the term "first edition" to mean specifically the first print run of the first edition (aka "first edition, first impression"). Since World War II, books often include a number line (printers key) that indicates the print run.

A "first edition" per se is not a valuable collectible book. A popular work may be published and reprinted over time by many publishers, and in a variety of formats. There will be a first edition of each, which the publisher may cite on the copyright page, such as: "First mass market paperback edition". The first edition of a facsimile reprint is the reprint publisher's first edition, but not the first edition of the work itself.

Bibliographical definition

The classic explanation of edition was given by Fredson Bowers in "Principles of Bibliographical Description" (1949). Bowers wrote that an edition is “the whole number of copies printed at any time or times from substantially the same setting of type-pages,” including “all issues and variant states existing within its basic type-setting, as well as all impressions.”

Publishers often use the same typesetting for the hardcover and trade paperback versions of a book. These books have different covers, the title page and copyright page may differ, and the page margin sizes may differ (same "type area", smaller "trim"), but to a bibliographer they are the same edition.

From time to time, readers may observe an error in the text (or, in the days of metal type, a piece of broken type), and report these to the publisher. The publisher typically keeps these reprint corrections in a file pending demand for a new print run of the edition, and before the new run is printed, they will be entered.

The method of entry, obviously, depends on the method of typesetting. For letterpress metal, it typically meant resetting a few characters or a line or two. For Linotype, it meant casting a new line for any line with a change in it. With film, it involved cutting out a bit of the film and inserting a new bit. In an electronic file, it means entering the changes digitally.

Such minor changes do not constitute a new edition, but introduce typographical variations within an edition, which are of interest to collectors.

Collectors' definition

A common complaint of book collectors is that the bibliographer's definition is used in a book-collecting context. For example, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye remains in print in hardcover. The type is the same as the 1951 first printing, therefore all hardcover copies are, for the bibliographer, the first edition. Collectors would use the term for the first printing only.

First edition most often refers to the first commercial publication of a work between its own covers, even if it was first printed in a periodical: the complete text of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea appeared in the September 1 1952 issue of Life magazine, yet the generally accepted “first” edition is the hardcover book Scribner’s published on September 8 1952.

The term "first trade edition," refers to the earliest edition of a book offered for sale to the general public in book stores. For example, Upton Sinclair's 1906 novel The Jungle was published in two variant forms. A "Sustainers' Edition", published by the Jungle Publishing Company, was sent to subscribers who had advanced funds to Sinclair. The first trade edition was published by Doubleday, Page to be sold in bookstores.

A small minority of book collectors, particularly in the science fiction field, hold that the earliest bound copies of a book--promotional advance copies: bound galleys, uncorrected proofs, advance reading copies sent by publishers to book reviewers and booksellers--are the true first edition.

Publishers' definition

Publishers use the term "first edition" for their own purposes, with little consistency. The "first edition" of a trade book may be the first edition by the current publisher, or the first edition with a particular set of illustrations or editorial commentary.

Non-fiction, academic and textbook publishers generally distinguish between revisions of the text, usually citing the dates of the first and latest editions on the copyright page. However, even this rule of thumb is sometimes bent. A new textbook with a different format, title, and authors may be called a "second edition" because a previous textbook is being counted as the first, despite being essentially a different book (sharing only the subject with the new one). This stretch of the definition is done for its marketing effect, because the new textbook may seem more authoritative to the potential buyer if it implies that there have been "previous editions".

Revised edition

The terms "revised edition" and "nth edition, revised" are sometimes used by publishers when the book has been editorially revised or updated but for some reason the author or publisher does not want to call it the n+1th edition (where n = previous edition number).

Conversely, they may decide to call a version that is really not very different a "new edition" (n+1th).

The qualitative difference, then, between a "revised edition" and a "new edition" is subjective. This is analogous to the way that software publishers may call one update "version 3.7" but call the next update "version 4" instead of "version 3.8". The difference is their subjective sense of whether the differences constitute something very different or merely slightly different. Sometimes the distinction has more to do with marketing than with reality (that is, encouraging buyers to "think" that something slightly different is very different).


The basic definition of a "co-edition" is when two publishing houses publish the same edition of a book (or equivalent versions of an edition, for example, translated versions), simultaneously or near-simultaneously, usually in different countries. Some examples:

* An English-language edition, from the same plates, films, or files, may be published in different anglophone countries by different publishing companies. For example, Arms & Armour Press in the UK and Stackpole Books in the U.S. published co-editions of various monographs on military matters. [Harvnb|Leventhal|2006.]
* A French-language novel published in France this year by a French publisher could become an English-language translation published in the U.S. next year by a U.S. publisher.

The logic of co-editions has often been to use the existing distribution systems of the different publishers in each country rather than establishing new distribution systems.

Advancing IT and the globalization of publishing have been blurring the lines of what "co-edition" means. For example, anything published online is effectively published worldwide. Also, large multinational publishers now have existing distribution systems for their hardcopy books in many countries, so they don't need to partner with other companies. They may issue a book under a different imprint for each country, but the imprints are parts of the same parent corporation. The actual manufacturing of the books may be done in China regardless of where the copies will be sold.


The term "e-dition", a play on the "e-"for-electronic prefix, has been used by various publishers to refer to various ideas, which include:
*The hardcopy book's content posted online, fully searchable
*Supplemental online-only content for buyers of the hardcopy book
*Online-only publishing (no hardcopy distribution)
*Proprietary-format digital publication (e-books) for use in specialized hardware for reading the book (e-book readers)

Print run

Each batch of copies printed is termed a "print run", "printing run", "printing", "impression", or "press run". This is all of the copies produced by a single set-up of the production equipment. One edition can have any number of print runs. Poor-selling books may have only one. Very successful books may have 50 or more.

A publisher hopes to recoup a large amount of the book's initial costs from the sale of the book's first print run. A variety of commercial and logistic factors are thus considered in deciding the number of books in a print run, and their unit price.

Demand for additional print runs after the first is always hoped for, because they increase the book's overall profitability. Once the fixed costs of developing, editing, typesetting, etc., have been covered by the first sales revenue, any additional sales revenue tends to add to the profit margin (minus, of course, the costs of the additional materials, printing, binding, and distribution).

Sometimes a print run will be unsatisfactory for some reason, particularly with art and photography books where reproduction quality is paramount. It is usually destroyed by being pulped, but occasionally a defective print run may be shipped to a distant overseas market and sold there cheaply, depending on shipping costs.

If sales of the book do not meet expectations, the remaining stock of a print run will be remaindered.

Seconds are imperfect or damaged copies which are set aside from a print run. These will usually have their jacket clipped or marked in some way.

When a print run is sold out, the title is either reprinted or becomes out of print. With the advent of print on demand and e-book technologies, publishers can keep titles perpetually in print, and there are now few good reasons why any new book should ever become unavailable. As for old books, many are currently still out-of-print, but an era in which any book from any time can be downloaded or printed on demand, either for free or for the right price, is conceivable. Properly handling copyrights and sales will present a larger hindrance to arriving at this era than will technical limitations.

Effect of technological change on the concept of "different versions"

The traditional concepts of versions of texts (editions, print runs, etc.) were shaped by the technology of printing on paper. As technology changes, the definitions of "edition", "co-edition", and "print run" are challenged by new models. For example, in the era of digital typesetting, print-on-demand, internet publishing, and e-books, how does one draw a line between different versions of the content? It can change every day, with any one instance of display (one hardcopy, one screen refresh, etc.) being different from the next. Yet the abstract distinctions of "big change" versus "little change" will probably continue to exist, simply taking new forms.

Legal status


Since 1956, typographical arrangements of published editions are protected by copyright law. "Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988" defines a published edition to mean "a published edition of the whole or any part of one or more literary, dramatic or musical works". [Duration Directive of the EU permits member states to create a publishers' right in critical and scientific works which have fallen into the public domain]

It thus protects the publisher's investment in typesetting, as well as the processes of design and selection that are reflected in the appearance of the text. ["Newspaper Licensing Agency v. Marks & Spencer" [2000] ] It also covers modern editions of public domain works (such as the complete works of Shakespeare), and prohibits the reproduction of the layout (but not the work itself).

ee also

*Editio princeps - essentially, the first "printed" edition of classical or medieval works
*Printers key
*Remaindered book



*Bowers, Fredson. "Principles of Bibliographical Description", Winchester and New Castle, Delaware : St Paul's Bibliographies and Oak Knoll Press, 2005 (reprint edition, first published in 1949).
*Citation | last = Leventhal | first = Lionel | year = 2006 | title = On Publishing: A Professional Memoir | publisher = Greenhill Books | location = London | id = ISBN 978-185367517-1

External links

* [http://www.bookpoi.com Bookpoi.com official homepage] - a comprehensive online guide to identify first edition, rare and collectible books.
* [http://www.bookthink.com/0003/03beid.htm Edition state terminology]
* [http://www.firsteditionpoints.com First Edition Points Online Reference Guide] is a free searchable database of points of issue for hundreds of modern first edition books. Includes images of cover, copyright page, dust jacket flaps, etc.
* [http://www.booklibris.com/BLFirstEditionID.htm How to Identify a First Edition]
* [http://www.pprize.com Pulitzer Prize First Edition Guide] is a free searchable database of first edition Pulitzer Prize for Fiction books. Includes images and points of issue.
* [http://www.aba.org.uk/bulletin/termsof.htm Terms from the Antiquarian Booksellers Association - see "Edition", "First Edition", "Impression", "Printing" etc.]

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