I am practicing making citations of quotes and I am currently stuck on publication dates.

To illustrate my issue, let’s use this this book:

  • The front pages state the copyright date as three separate years, which I have no idea how to interpret (see image below).

  • I checked on Google, and I found this on Amazon stating the publication date of Aug 10, 2010.

  • Checking the official site of publisher, I see "© 2011".

Do I need to make assumptions when taking the date, e.g., taking the first date from copyright without being certain that it is the correct publication date? I know I can contact the publisher and ask, but that seems like (a) a lot of work and (b) it’s pretty unlikely I’ll get a reply. I want to know if there are any tips on making sure that the publication date of the book is correct.

the page with all the relevant info.

4 Answers 4


The three dates you see are the years the copyright was renewed. You probably just want the most recent of those dates, as that's the edition of the book you're working with.

Note that it can get more complex than that—edition and copyright date are not always the same—but its definitely good enough for citations.

  • So in this case, I can't be completely sure? Feels so wrong to just assume publication date and most recent copyright renewal date are the same...
    – Dmytro
    Dec 3, 2015 at 18:41
  • Or perhaps would it more fair to just write n.d. for no date, as the book does not provide a publication date, but only copyright date, and the two are different.
    – Dmytro
    Dec 3, 2015 at 23:06
  • 1
    @Dmitry n.d. is useless. When I look at a reference, I want the year to get an idea of how recent it is, and how it relates to other similar research I may be aware of. The copyright is usually close enough to the real date.
    – Davidmh
    Dec 4, 2015 at 6:14

Your best bet is probably to look the book up in WorldCat, which (because it contains records from thousands of libraries) is quite likely to have separate records for each edition of the book. (Why? It's a long story. Seymour Lubetzky was a nitpicker.) Looking at the earliest available records indicates a 1990 copyright date for the first edition of the book, which is probably close enough to the publication date to satisfy an editor or instructor.

The real question is which edition you should be citing. It's probably the one you're actually using, the fourth! WorldCat's consensus (though not unanimous; bad records do sometimes sneak in) answer to the date of the fourth edition is 2011.


Publishers often fudge on the copyright dates by putting one year later than the real publication year. See for instance this answer, or google for "publication date vs copyright date".

So it is very likely that the book was published in 2010.


Cite 2011. The other two years, 1995 and 2004, correspond to the first two editions of the book. If you're citing this (third) edition you should naturally use 2011.

As for the fact that you can find the book on Amazon in 2010, as the marketing department explained to me when I was in academic publishing, it's because when the book is "printed" (read: arrives at the warehouse) it's already late 2010. From the warehouse the book still needs to be shipped around the world, so that when it's actually available for purchase in Amazon, it's 2011. In the meantime, it's available for pre-order, because once the printing process starts it's usually clear when the book will be complete. The time required to produce a book can be very uncertain, but the biggest uncertainties are earlier in the production process.

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