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A book series is a sequence of books having certain characteristics in common that are formally identified together as a group. Book series can be organized in different ways, such as written by the same author, or marketed as a group by their publisher.

Let say a series called: "World's Religions" consist of 6 volumes. Is it possible that one of those book volume appears under different series, for example: "Modern Religion".

If it is possible, what are some minor differences between the 2 books?

  • Surely the volume numbering will be different.
  • Will the ISBN of the 2 books different?
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    Each edition but not each reprint should have a different ISBNs. Second and subsequent editions from the same publisher would have a different ISBN from that publisher's pool. Editions from other publishers should have an ISBN from those publisher's pool. Books can be in multiple series, but that really only creates problems in Journals (which have ISSNs) not books. Books in more that one series can list all series in the front matter. E.g. a book with Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot work separate cases that turn out to be linked. – paulzag Jul 15 '16 at 7:06
  • Marvel Universe anyone? – paulzag Jul 15 '16 at 7:06
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I'm not aware of any specific examples, but yes it's possible.

For your question about ISBNs, it's important to understand that the ISBN is an identifier to the publishing of the book (roughly the FRBR Manifestation). Reprintings don't typically get a new ISBN number, but changes in packaging (hardback vs. paperback vs. large print hardback) would.

(FRBR, the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records, deals with the issue that "book" has different meanings, and so it defines "Work" to be the overall creative work, which is realized through an "Expression" and embodied in a "Manifestion" and exemplified in an "Item". So we have "The Bible" vs. "The King James Bible" vs. "ISBN ...." vs. "The dog eared bible that my aunt gave me". Of course that example neglects that the bible is actually a collection of Works not a single Work, but it should get the point across)

Occassionally reprintings will get a new ISBN, but it's up to the publisher to decide. ("Now with a new foreword by the Author!", "20th Anniversary Edition!" are more likely to get a new ISBN than simply '7th printing')

New editions (a new FRBR Expression or a new FRBR Work, depending on the extent of the changes) should always get a new ISBN, as the publisher wants to sell people the new book and make sure they understand that it's a new book.

So, would an old ISBN be sold under a new ISBN?

I've seen it happen, in the case of collections -- a box set is composed of the original releases, each with their original ISBN, but the box has a new ISBN on it.

I don't know if they qualify as 'series' but in terms of 'sets' or 'collections', I could see publishers selling a book individually, then as a trilogy, then as a 'complete series' later, and possibly later as a 'complete works of (author)'.

In academic publishing, you might have a series of chapters collected into a book, and some of those chapters appearing again in some other book.

I could see something like your example if you were to have a publisher like Time Life have a book on World War 2 Aircraft, and then have series on both "World War 2" and on "Military Aircraft", and recycling much of the content. But the publisher wants you to buy both copies, so they'd likely rework the content to make it look like a totally new book.

Another possibility might be in cookbooks ... if you had a 'Christmas Cookies of Italy' book, it could be sold in a 'Christmas Cookies of Europe' set or as a 'Cookies of Italy' set. (but do they count as 'series'? I don't know).


The only case that I can think of where I would say that they definately qualify as part of multiple "series" would be "cross-over" type stories in fiction, where characters from more than one series are present. This often happens in comic books, and may happen in cartoons or tv shows, but the "cross-over" story may be told across multiple series (eg, Marvel's Onslaught Saga) or there might be slight title variations so they're not technically part of each "series" (eg, Marvel's Civil War), or it might be a special, unique publication (that may end up as a new series, like DC's World Without Grownups was the lead in to Young Justice)

(Note that 'crossover' when talking about books is about appeal, not content; it usually means books that are liked by both teens and adults. I'm not using that sense of it)

More common seems to be there being a "special" edition or a separate series for the cross over (eg, JLA or Avengers for comic books, but there were Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys books and a TV show, and The Jimmy/Timmy Power Hour and Rugrats go Wild on Nickelodeon). In these cases, they might fit between specific issues/episodes of multiple series, but they're not exactly a member of those series.

Or you have a couple of characters from one series show up in another (which may just be an allusion or easter egg, like frequently happens in Stephen King's Dark Tower series or most works by Neil Gaiman).

Official collaborations are more likely to happen in series by the same author/creator (eg, X-Files wrapped up some plot points from Chris Carter's canceled TV series Millennium; The TV show Archer had the titular character lose his memory and appear in Bob's Burgers (voiced by the same actor)). (it's huge for TV shows ... not even counting The Simpsons. See http://www.poobala.com/crossoverlist.html.)

... but I don't know that any of them would really match what I think you're asking.

  • Welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center if you haven't already. This is a really good detailed first answer. Thanks for contributing and happy writing! – linksassin Jun 28 '19 at 1:54
  • @linksassin : thanks, but I'm not as new as you think. – Joe Jun 28 '19 at 2:04
  • Oh I know you're only new to this site. I was just going through the review queue for first posts. You still get a badge for taking the tour on each new site. :) – linksassin Jun 28 '19 at 2:05
  • @linksassin : I had looked at it to see what the scope was (debating on telling the person asking about APA style that it'd be an acceptable question on Academia.SE, but I didn't get the badge, as I didn't scroll to the bottom, too. – Joe Jun 28 '19 at 2:09
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There are two possibilities that I can see:

  1. The book is republished. Either of both publications can be part of a series or a standalone. Many classics fall into this category.

  2. The book is co-published by different publishers in different countries. Here is an example. This typically happens with scientific handbooks or textbooks. Sometimes these are part of a series.

In case one ISBNs will differ between editions; in case two all ISBNs are listed in all editions of the book, and it is sometimes hard to tell which edition you are holding from the book alone.

  • 1
    Each edition but not each reprint should have a different ISBN number. Second and subsequent editions from the same publisher would have an ISBN number from that publisher's pool. – paulzag Jul 15 '16 at 6:56
  • 1
    Editions from other publishers should have an ISBN from those publisher's pool. Books can be in multiple series, but that really only creates problems in Journals (which have ISSNs) not books. Books in more that one series can list all series in the front matter. E.g. a book with Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot work separate cases that turn out to be linked. – paulzag Jul 15 '16 at 7:05
  • @PaulZagoridis And your comments relate to my answer how? I'm not sure if they are an expansion, a critique, or just completely irrelevant to the question. – user5645 Jul 15 '16 at 7:33
  • What said "In all cases, the ISBN will be different" so logically it's an expansion. I might as well further clarify that in some cases small publishing houses reuse an ISBN for new editions. Plus you should be able to tell precisely which edition of a book you are holding from the indicia and ISBN alone regardless of how many ISBN's are listed. – paulzag Jul 16 '16 at 9:01
  • @PaulZagoridis I'm not sure I understand your first sentence. As for the last, please look at the example in this answer: writers.stackexchange.com/a/23826/5645. If you can tell wether there is more than one edition of that book, and which one this is, – only by looking at this book and without doing any further research – I would be surprised. – user5645 Jul 16 '16 at 20:25

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