Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
The front matter of a book communicates a lot of helpful and important information to readers. But publishers and authors often find themselves wondering how to handle that information in their ebook files. In the current installments of my column here on Digital Book World, I am delving into some best practices, ideas and options for these opening and ending parts of your ebook. In my last installment, we talked about cover images. This time, I’d like to discuss the copyright page.
Note: As is my standard practice, the markup examples below are all suitable for EPUB 3 files. If you are still creating an EPUB 2 file for some reason, your mileage may vary.
The copyright page is very important, but there is still a lot of confusion about what a copyright page inside an ebook should contain. Ebooks are not the same as print books, so the information on the ebook copyright page should relate to the ebook itself, not to its print counterpart. There is no requirement on where this page is located, but some publishers place it at the back of the ebook so that it doesn’t get in the way of the 10-percent sample that many retailers provide to potential consumers.
The Copyright Notice
The notice of your copyright is the most important part of the copyright page. If you do nothing else, be sure to include this in your ebook file. The notice just needs to state who owns the copyright and the year (For example, “Copyright © 2015 by Joshua Tallent.”). Some authors and publishers also add “All rights reserved” to the end of the notice just to be clear that they retain all the rights to the book.
You can also expand on the basic notice with other rights information if you like, such as the common “No portion of this book may be reproduced…” that you see in many books. You may also want to provide instructions on the extent of acceptable usage of the content for quoting in other books, copying the content for students, etc. This is very common in Bibles, where the publisher allows for the use of a certain number of verses without special permission.
It is also sometimes necessary or helpful to provide a disclaimer in the book about the contents, such as the “This is a work of fiction…” notice, or the “The advice in this book is not to be construed as legal counsel…”, etc. For better information on these kinds of disclaimers and their legal usefulness, I recommend you talk to an attorney.
Every ebook should have an ISBN assigned to it. ISBNs are the industry-standard method for identifying and tracking books. It is usually best for you to assign ISBNs that you personally own, despite the fact that there are some distributors that will assign one of their ISBNs to your ebook for just a few dollars. The owner of the ISBN is listed as such in Bowker’s Books in Print listings, and is sometimes also listed as the publisher in other locations.
While the official guidelines from the International ISBN Agency state that every ebook file that will be sold with a different kind of DRM (i.e., every ebook file sold by every retailer) should have its own ISBN assigned, this is not the standard practice of any publisher as far as I know. Most publishers will assign one ISBN to their EPUB file and give that one file to all retailers (including Amazon). Publishers that create a separate Kindle file will often assign an ISBN to it, as well, though Amazon does not require that an ebook have an ISBN assigned.
Include your ISBN both on the copyright page of the ebook and in the OPF metadata. Here is some sample code for the OPF:
<meta refines=”#uid” property=”identifier-type” scheme=”xsd:string”>isbn</meta>
Note that there are some potential issues with how InDesign CC creates EPUB 3 metadata that I talked about in an earlier column.
In our next installment, we will finish talking about the copyright page, including some discussion on the use of version numbers in your ebook files. If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like me to cover—anything related to ebooks or metadata—please post a comment below.
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