What's the difference between an “Edition” and a “Publication”?

What’s the difference between an “Edition” and a “Publication”? “Work” I understand, but what comes next in the pyramid? And when should a new publication/edition of an existing work be created when there already are publications/editions? The style guidelines are still a bit empty. :slight_smile:

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As far as I understood, publication = release group, edition = release.


Chirlu is corrected here - in fact we’ll be renaming publications to edition groups in the next release to avoid unnecessary confusion. So:

Edition = Release (a physical manifestation of a book or other literature)
Edition Group/Publication = Release Group (an abstract collection of editions that are fundamentally the same piece of literature, with minor differences)
Work = Work (an abstract entity representing some identifiable creative effort by a creator)


I stand correct! :smile:


Heh, thank you both.

As I understand it within MusicBrainz Release existed before ReleaseGroup so Release couldn’t be used for ReleaseGroup, however it would have more accurately described things since when an artist/recording company talks about a new release they mean a Release Group, better naming would have been Release for Release Group and Release Version for Release

So I’m not sure using that renaming to Edition Group is a good idea, wouldn’t it be better to use words that in common usage as you already have with Edition and Publication.

I have to agree that just renaming Publications to Edition Groups would be no more helpful in drawing a distinction between Editions and Publications. In fact, I recently filed a JIRA issue for documentation to be added to the user guide to clarify what the data model really is.

So more to the point, @LordSputnik, what defines “same piece of literature” for the purpose of an Edition Group/Publication, especially with respect to what might actually be a distinct Work? For example:

  • Is my English translation of Don Quixote a distinct Work from the original Spanish text?
  • Would an illustrated edition of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol be a distinct Edition Group, or is that also just another Work?
  • If it’s an Edition Group, what if that illustrated edition was translated into Russian as well?
  • A critical edition of Shakespeare’s Hamlet seems like it would probably a separate Edition Group of the Work Hamlet, but what happens when they make a revised text of that critical edition? Would I then just add each new manifestation (hardcover, paperback, eBook) of that revised text as a new Edition next to the original ones?
  • What if a text is published by the same publisher without any modifications but with a new Introduction? Is that a new Edition Group, or just a new Edition?
  • What do I do about the various printings of works like the Fellowship of the Ring like the 2012 reissue by Mariner Books, the 1988 hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt or the 1965 mass market paperback by Ace? Presumably the text is exactly the same, so are they all just different Editions? Or are they grouped by publisher into different Edition Groups, because they have substantially different cover art and publishers (perhaps even publication countries)?

In offering this list of questions, I don’t mean to be glib. These aren’t exactly easy questions to answer, and various librarians have, as far as I can tell, spent years working on their own representation models attempting to answer these questions, of which perhaps FRBR is the best known. But even these models have ambiguity that comes down to “house style”. But, depending on what the goals are, it may suggest that deeper model fixes and new relationship types are needed.


I also think that there’s a lot of room for improvement on the current model.

Perhaps the easiest thing to define is a manifestation. That’s a single, physical object, whether a book, magazine, eBook/PDF file, or other form of printed or digital literature that can be thought of as an individual thing.

The step up from that is where Edition sits. So an Edition must describe a set of manifestations, which all derive from the same master copy/source. Still fairly clear.

Then the difficulty begins. The next level, whatever it’s called, should group together editions of the same book, if it’s necessary to have this level. It should also group together all the editions of a particular magazine. I’m actually not sure whether this is a necessary level to have, if Work and Series exist.

A Work is any distinct literature produced through any creative process.

I’m very open to discussion and suggestions about any of this - the former we can make any of these definitions, the better.

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Yeah, what you describe as a “manifestation” and “edition” (or what FRBR would call an “item” and “manifestation”) are pretty straightforward. Likewise, we can generally agree that there’s a top-level “work” concept that can be used to group some set of “artistically identical” editions/manifestations under a single-heading. The questions then require some understanding of what constitutes “artistically identical” and how, exactly, BookBrainz would intend to define and break up works:

  • Is a work a conceptual entity consisting of a single creative burst by one or more individuals, however expressed or transformed? (i.e. do translations, illustrated and critical editions, etc. belong to the same work?)
  • Is a work a single artistic product defined by the significant creative forces that combined to produce it, but not transformative ones? (i.e. are illustrated editions distinct works because the illustrator is different, but translations and critical editions might be the same work)
  • Is a work an artistic product defined as the result of all significant creative contributions and transformations that have the potential to significantly alter the meaning of the work? (i.e. are translations, too, distinct works)

Some of these distinctions can, of course, be captured by intermediate levels. For example, it might be reasonable to say that the Edition Group concept represents some single “artistic edition” (i.e. grouped by translation, or by illustrator, or critical commentary, or textual revision, or both), while a Work represents the abstract entity. Indeed, I suspect this is sort of what the Edition Group was intended to solve.

Likewise, relationships in the data model can implicitly express some of these groupings without an explicit entity in the data model, like how MusicBrainz can relate works as being “translations” of other works. (Of course I’m not suggesting that this is necessarily appropriate for BookBrainz, since translations of works are not nearly as common in music as they are in literature, which suggests that a higher-order grouping of such translations might be more useful)

Of course here I still glaze over other subtleties:

  • What about works that are embedded in journals, anthologies, and other collected forms? (i.e. where there is not a one-to-one relationship between Work and Edition)
  • For that matter, what about introductory material in an edition that is ancillary to the primary work? Does it constitute a second, independent work? Or is it just implied by the Edition (Group)? (And if the latter, do those introductions mean you have no way to obviously group Edition Groups that only differ by the introductory material?)
  • What about works where the author revisits and revises a portion of the work with artistic (rather than strictly grammatical/editorial) intent to supersede a previous edition, like Tolkien’s second edition of The Hobbit?
  • What, if anything, does the anthology, journal or collected form have as its representation, if not a work? Certainly it can have multiple editions and revisions, as well.
  • Do we even want to start talking about how comic books are released and compiled? Every issue of Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman has been pressed and collected in at least 5 different forms (original serial, trade paperback, Absolute Edition [which saw some minor artistic revisions and extra content], Annotated Edition [with textual annotations], and Omnibus Edition [re-collected Absolute Edition content into two, rather than five, volumes]) and that’s a series that probably doesn’t start touching on the modern(?) concept of variant covers of individual issues that otherwise contain the exact same internal content. I’m sure other comic books are equally confusing to sort through.

Sorry to be posing so many questions. I don’t think these all need to be answered now, but I do think they are all worth considering as the model evolves, especially because the existing data will need to eventually be rectified to fit any changed model.


OK, here are my best definitions, after talking with Leo_Verto last night:

  • Work (adapted from MusicBrainz Wiki): In MetaBrainz terminology, a work is a distinct intellectual or artistic creation. It consists of a collection of ideas, often related. Examples of these ideas may be musical motifs, lyrics or melody within music, or literary devices and plot points within literature.

  • Edition: An edition is a piece of literature which has been made available for public distribution. It may have been edited, compiled, illustrated and printed for physical distribution.

  • Edition Group: An edition group is a set of editions which share an “identity”. Editions which share an identity will mostly have the same name (with small changes, such as articles added or removed, allowed), and will often be derived from the same set of works (although each edition of something like an anthology may feature a slightly different set).

Additionally, I’d like to remove our existing Creator and Publisher entities, and create:

  • Individual: A person
  • Collective: A group or organization of people

These two types can both be used in the same ways as Creator and Publisher can now. A person can self-publish, and could then be marked as a publisher for their own edition. A collective can author a book - for example, organizations who publish new translations of religious texts, or support literature attributed to a company.

Thoughts? :slight_smile:


I would strongly, strongly argument for naming the “individual” as “writer” in the same vein as we call the “artist” in mb.
“Publisher” to me seems like “label” in mb, that is, foremost a company (tho I would argue for renaming “label” in mb to “company” so there is that) and I assume it is like a “Publishing house”
Though you are right about Writers being able to self publish and that Companies can author books, what they then are could be settings of type (this Company is Writer and Publisher) or a setting between the entities (this Writer is “Publisher” of this Edition)


How would this model apply to smaller segments within an edition (eg, chapters, sections, blurbs, articles in a periodical)? Presumably each of these smaller segments will be a work contained in an edition (eg, the larger work like a book or a specific issue of a periodical), which would itself need to be linked to a work. Do these smaller segments need an edition to itself, given that they could be republished in another periodical/book?

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But what if it’s a picture book with no words? Individual would be much more flexible.

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That was actually one of the cased we discussed last night and felt that it works well under our current model.

hmm … I guess in Norwegian we say “forfatter” which means uh, writer. or “creator”, to “conceptualise” or something like that. but i would presume picture book’s are “written”, perhaps storyboarded not unlike comics or film?

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I have an interesting RL example: The story “The Witch’s Headstone” By Neil Gaiman, originally published as a small story, (also in concurrence with other small stories, in several (at least two) different "anthologies"of small stories) but was later reworked somewhat and published as chapter 4 of “The Graveyard book” (which has also been translated and has had a comic reversion made)
given that the original small story might’ve’n also translated, how would this be stored with our model?

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I suppose so, but I also have a lot of zines that are simply collections of sketches. I like the scope of ‘individual’.

Taking it a step further, if the two entities are interchangeable (both can author and publish), why have two different ones at all? Then any entity can just be marked as a group or a person like an MB artist can be. If that’s a dumb question feel free to ignore me :wink:

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You’re right that Chapters, Sections, Blurbs, Articles could all be works.

Not until they’re published again, at which point you’d make a new edition (and possibly edition group) linking to the new set of works.

I have some more info on the relationships between these entities that I’ll publish when I’m back from the summit :slight_smile:


If they’re going to be functionally identical, why not just use one entity type for it and be able to designate whether a specific instance of that entity is an individual or a collective?
In MusicBrainz I sometimes leave the “type” blank exactly because I don’t know if something is “Group” or “Person”, I could imagine the same being true here, and the proposed change would force editors to make a call on this property before being able to create the entity at all, which means that sometimes the call will be wrong and it will have to be changed later—and I think it will probably be harder to change an entity’s entity type than an attribute of it.