Date of publication of original book, not EPUB

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Acording to the spec "only one date element is allowed" in the Package document's metadata element, and it's only used "to define the publication date of the EPUB Publication".

So how could I include a date of original book's publication when it's not the same as EPUB's (i.e. different year)?

Also, will the reading systems consider that single date element to be the original publication of the books contents, because that doesn't seem like a good idea.

As the dc:date element was used in EPUB 2 primarily for the publication date, it was formally defined for that use in EPUB 3.

The expectation was that people would look to the better defined set of dates available in the dcterms property set for other users.

In this case, I'm not sure that the date of print publication can be related to the release of an ebook, but I'm not a cataloguer of books. It sounds like you want to "refine" a dc:source element with a date, sort of like this:

<dc:source id="src">some source</dc:source>
<meta refines="#src" property="dcterms:issued">1900-12-31</meta>

(Or you could swap in dcterms:dateCopyright or even dcterms:date above, if dcterms:issued is isn't a good fit for your case.)

I think it would be confusing to attach the date directly to the publication (i.e., omit a refines attribute), as these lifecycle dates typically refer to the edition you've created.

Whether a reading system is going to do anything with this metadata is an open question. The metadata in the package file is generally a basic subset of what can be expressed for any publication, as reading systems don't expose a lot of information in bookshelves.

I don't know of any reading system that presents date information for sources, for example, but then they're not any more likely to present a "non-refined" date that isn't expressed using dc:date or dcterms:modified.

I wouldn't omit any information based solely on what reading systems display at any point in time, just noting not to expect too much intelligence from them.

Interesting. But what if the dc:source isn't the first edition? Then I again wouldn't have the original publication date.
Isn't there a DC property that specifies the date of the source material's first publication that I could use for the whole EPUB?

I agree with you completely about not omitting information based on current support and that's exactly why I'm trying to find the best way to do this; I figure that if it eventually gets supported somehow by reading systems it will be easier to just edit the existing information than include new.

Having said that, not including the date when the content was originally published in the spec is quite a flaw. If reading systems do start showing dates eventually (actually, Readium for Chrome already does) they'll only have EPUB's creation date to show, which is pretty useless for everything but the newly written books – you wouldn't expect to find "The Great Gatsby" listed under the year 2010 (or whenever it was released as EPUB).

Why wouldn't I?

Who is going to be confused by an ebook version of Gatsby released in 2015, or reproduced from a specific print edition say from the 1960s? That's exactly the information I'd want to know, as it differentiates which ebook version I'm looking at.

Go take a look at the ebooks for sale - their publication dates are all post 2007. The "1925" date only appears in the descriptions. You might want to consider similar.

But have a look at ONIX code list 163 for an origin date modifier. You could try pairing that with a dublin core issued date, but as it's highly unlikely any reading system will ever make the right connection between the two, you're effectively setting the issued date for the current publication to 1925 if you do it.

EPUB's metadata framework is only geared at allowing the most basic and critical metadata expressions, and while there might be some mild interest in the original publication date, people are more interested in the edition at hand.

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