I came across one of the edited books where authors contribute chapters that was published once in 2010 and the again in 2014. The two different books have identical (or almost identical) titles but different ISBNs and different DOIs. This means that a chapter that was included in both (same title, abstract and content, unfortunately I do not have access to one of the full texts) is counted as two publications. As far as I can tell, most of the content between the two books is the same.

Is this common practice generally or to certain fields? Is it ethical? How are these cases generally treated?

3 Answers 3


As a non-answer, but perhaps worthwhile, we could note that literal publication, revised publication, and so on, literally serves scholarly purposes. The potential objection is that this might score status or impact points unfairly. The error here is thinking in terms of status or impact points, especially as a back-forming regulator of permissible behavior.

That is, the real goal is not status/jobs/tenure – although those are serious things – but advancement of human understanding. In particular, rules of the game of status/jobs/tenure are not at all necessarily connected to issues about advancement of human understanding.

In particular, there’s nothing to treat. If some for-profit publisher’s self-promoting “impact factor” somehow counts this twice, this is no serious human being’s problem. The possibility that a corporation’s software misunderstands a new edition is in no conceivable way an ethical failure of people who write parts of something useful enough to be republished in a new edition.

  • But if you are saying that it is fine why do we seem so concerned about self-plagiarism? academia.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/self-plagiarism
    – o4tlulz
    Jun 19, 2015 at 20:52
  • @o4tlulz, the self-plagiarism "concern" seems to have arisen only in the last few years. For one thing, until the last 20 years or so, there was scarcely the possibility of "copy-and-paste", since everything had to be retyped. Also, there was no "impact factor" stuff: it was all more ambiguous. For that matter, any publication was in the old-fashioned way, not really very "public" at all apart from being in libraries, and turn-around took two years, etc. At least in mathematics, it seems to me that there was more focus on substance/quality than "number" at that time. Jun 19, 2015 at 21:02
  • ... but/and the traditional publishers have huge interest in replacing the old processes with new ones that still somehow critically involve them... and surely that's a big part of the impetus to create various "impact factor" machinery. My own university has paid and maybe continues to pay a good chunk of money to one such publisher for some software that supposedly "rates" all faculty... When someone has a chance to make money on an idea, that idea will be promoted, but, of course, with other apparent explanations as to why it's "good"... Jun 19, 2015 at 21:04

Different editions of books are different books and have different ISBNs. In many cases, chapters don't change that much, if at all. This is the way it's done - no ethical problems.


Some of my papers have appeared twice, first as "columns" in the Bulletin of the European Association for Theoretical Computer Science, and later in books that are essentially collections of these columns. Sometimes the book version includes some revisions. Even then, I'd consider these two appearances to be a single publication, and I'd list them as one item in my CV. I am aware, though, that some people have entirely different policies about such things, and I wouldn't call them unethical.

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