Date Recommendations for Canadian Publishers



  1. The Canadian supply chain should support an accurate and regularly updated Publication Date as defined below.  
  2. On digital books, On Sale Date (a.k.a. Embargo Date) should be supplied pre-publication where it is used to carry the formal date of first consumer download.  
  3. On print books, On Sale Date should only be supplied if it is meaningful and fully supported in the Canadian market as defined below.
  4. Similarly, for the US market, On Sale Date should only be supplied by Canadian publishers if it is accurate and supported in the US market following the guidelines of their US trading partners.
  5. Canadian print retailers have not undertaken to automatically support On Sale Date. Publishers who expect On Sale Date to be rigorously supported by retailers MUST contact the retailer for more information and guidelines to obtain that support.
  6. Support for other dates is encouraged and any date supplied should follow the ONIX definition and be maintained and updated accurately.

General Principles for Dates


  • Publishers supply dates in metadata to meet the business needs of other companies, so they must be used with clear intent and regard to their published meanings.
  • A date displayed to consumers is a promise made to them. Any date provided to retailers for planning should allow them to fulfill that promise to their consumers. So updating the date is better than failing to meet it, though providing an updated date less than three weeks prior to the date is problematic.
  • All dates supplied in a metadata feed must relate and be maintained meaningfully with other parts of a book's record, especially its Publishing Status and Product Availability. For example, a forthcoming status paired with a Publication Date in the past does not confirm if a book is, or is not, available. 
  • Publication Date is mandatory for all books in print, digital, or other formats. (Exception: A Publishing Status like "Cancelled" or "Postponed Indefinitely" makes the Publication Date meaningless and it can be removed. Some companies supply a visibly meaningless date.)
  • On Sale Date is mandatory on all digital products.
  • Use of other dates should follow the published ONIX definition.

Further information

EDItEUR's ONIX for Books Implementation and Best Practice Guide, ONIX for Books Global Best Practice, P.20 Global publishing status and dates / copyright

  • Introduction and highlighted section

  • Product date composite section

Definitions & Uses

Publication Date

Mandatory for print and digital products


Pre-publication: The expected date of first publication for this specific product and ISBN; used for planning.

Post-publication: The date of first publication for this specific product and ISBN; remains the date of record associated with this ISBN throughout the book's lifecycle.

The joint BISG / BNC Best Practices for Product Metadata: Guide for North American Data Senders and Receivers defines Publication Date as:

"The nominal or approximate date on which the product is made available in the market, used largely for planning and business process purposes. Actual availability to the retailer may be no more than a handful of days prior to this date and – in the absence of a sales embargo – retail fulfillment to consumers may begin as soon as stock is available."


  • Used by businesses and stakeholders for planning and identification
  • Used to inform consumers when a book will be available
  • Helps to identify the book thereafter
  • Appears on online records

For print books in Canada, Publication Date can be supplied on its own.

For digital books in Canada, both a Publication Date (used for consumer display) and On Sale Date (the date used internally by retailers to allow consumer to start downloading files) should be supplied. On most digital books, the two dates are the same, where the date displayed should be the date downloads begin.

On Sale Date

Mandatory for digital products; optional for print products


Pre-publication for digital books: The date on which retailers can allow consumer downloads; used for planning purposes.

Pre-publication for print books: The date used by distributors to coordinate distribution of stock to achieve "just-in-time" delivery at retailers; the date retailers are expected to release the product to consumers.

Post-publication: Meaningless; most companies leave the date in place.


For digital books, it is used as the date to start allowing consumer downloads and is generally the same as Publication Date.

For print books in the US, within guidelines, major US distributors offer an On Sale Date service whereby they deliver product to retailers in an appropriate fashion to ensure they meet the date. Major US retailers for print products have agreed to honour and work with publishers to support the On Sale Date. Contact your US distributor for their support of print On Sale Date in the US

For print books in Canada, BookNet Canada is not aware of any major Canadian distributor who formally offers a similar service. Canadian retailers have not formally agreed to abide by the On Sale Date as a generic piece of metadata. Nevertheless, the Canadian physical book supply chain is aware of release dates and publishers, retailers and other stakeholders work together to ensure they are met.

When supplying an On Sale Date (a.k.a. Embargo Date in ONIX 3.0), use of Expected Ship Date (a.k.a. Availability Date in ONIX 3.0) is also recommended. See the table below for definitions.


Starting in 2010, the US market has supported On Sale Date for both print and digital products to ensure that publishers can release a book title across multiple formats at a specific time. In this way, both the print and digital markets can release titles simultaneously. 

On Sale Date (a.k.a Embargo Date in ONIX 3.0) for release of products can be enforced by contracts and legalities, or they can be soft with an expectation that the retailer respect the date. Publishers monitor compliance in either case and work with retailers to ensure that product release is orderly.

As explained in this BISG white paper on On Sale Date, a great deal of work needs to be done by publishers and their distributors to ensure compliance. No one in either the US or Canadian market expects retailers to store books until a particular date is reached. Canadian publishers did not identify the same concerns about controlling simultaneous release of print and digital products. If it is a concern, however, publishers can work with their retail partners.

Dates for print vs. digital

Publication Date and On Sale Date for print books

For many Canadian publishers, the preferred option is to not supply On Sale Date for print books and to provide a Publication Date on its own. That means:

  • The Publication Date accurately reflects the approximate (+/- five days) date the book will be available for sales and provides retailers a date around which to plan the start of sales.
  • Stock should be shipped to arrive prior to, but near, this date.
  • Pre-publication updates to that date are provided with a reasonable lead time (i.e., three weeks or more).
  • Retailers are NOT limited by it and may begin sales on receipt of stock.

Supplying a Publication Date on its own is similar to providing it with an identical On Sale Date. In either case, the publisher remains responsible for when the product is released and Publication Date is the date used by retailers for planning. The difference is that by supplying a Publication Date on its own, a publisher is not making extra demands on the retailer – they are simply supplying stock that can be sold.

Publication Date and On Sale Date for digital books

Keeping in mind that On Sale Date and Publication Date for digital books are typically the same, eBOUND Canada suggests a couple of considerations around digital On Sale Date:

  1. Digital retailers expect a file to be delivered prior to the On Sale Date with enough time to process and prepare it for sale on that date. Publisher access to automated loading and other retailer services may depend on a history of providing files on time.
  2. Retailers don't like On Sale Date to change as they make plans and projections based on it. Also, not all e-tailers update their data in a timely fashion. To have a digital On Sale Date and any updates to it respected, the obvious best practice is to submit changes as early as possible and submit files following the retailer's request.


Neither digital nor physical retailers want to lose sales to the other. At the same time, consumers want to choose between formats without their preference being available after the alternatives. For print books, a best practice is to provide retailers with physical book stock timed to match the digital On Sale Date. All of that can be achieved using Publication Date. If an On Sale Date is supplied for a physical book, the publisher and their distributor are asking for and making commitments with the retailer.

We recommend that Canadian publishers supply On Sale Date in their metadata for all digital products, but only on print products if it is being fully supported by retailers. If the retailer agrees to use it, it should be submitted. If the publisher is not working with retailers to secure compliance, then simply using Publication Date is acceptable, as it creates no implied obligation on the exact release date. That being said, publishers have no less obligation to ship appropriately to this date than if there were an On Sale Date being used, as retailers must still plan their activities based on it.

This recommendation is intended to maximize retailer ability to service the Canadian market and where it is used with intent allows better visibility for publisher On Sale Date.

Further information

BISG's On Sale Date Compliance: Recommended Best Practices (Version 1, September 2010)

Indigo's Delivery Guideline for New Release Titles (Revised Oct 10, 2014)

ONIX Metadata Support

Both On Sale Date (a.k.a. Embargo Date) and Expected Ship Date (a.k.a. Availability Date) are associated with specific markets and contained within the Supply Detail in an ONIX file.

The recommendations found in this document imply some publishers may support On Sale Date (a.k.a. Embargo Datein the US but not in Canada.  

Another implication is that while the On Sale Date (a.k.a. Embargo Datewould typically be the same throughout North America, that might not always be practical while respecting Canadian retailer needs around supporting print book embargo dates. Even if the On Sale Date (a.k.a. Embargo Date) are identical in both markets, the lead-in time needed by Canadian retailers – represented by the Expected Ship Date (a.k.a. Availability Date) – may be longer in the Canadian market than is typical in the US.

It is common for a single Supply Detail supporting dual CAD and USD prices to be used for North America, but in order to accommodate date accuracy and other market variations, the ONIX solution is to supply a unique Supply Detail for each market. (Note that for ONIX 3.0, the Market Composite contains the Supply Detail and it would be unique for each market.)

Where market differences exist that represent unique needs and dates for that market, then unique market representation is the only accurate way to do this. Recognition of this is one reason this document emphasizes that Publication Date may be sufficient within the Canadian market and supplying it as the working date for this market may be the practical way to achieve accuracy while keeping the metadata practical and simple. If it is necessary to split the markets to achieve and maintain accuracy in the metadata, then this simplifies the Canadian market entry.

Dates related to Products supported in ONIX

This list shows dates that can be uniquely identified in the ONIX metadata.

The "order" column provides the order of importance to Canadian publishers as determined by a recent survey.The results are not based on a wide enough response level to be more than "suggestive" of importance but all of these dates should be supplied if relevant and needed for your business.

Note: In 3.0, dates can be assigned to the Product overall OR applied to the Product in a specific market.



ONIX 3.0 Code List 163

  • Publishing Date Role
  • Market Date Role



ONIX 3.0 Code List 166

  • Supply Date Role 


ONIX 2.1 Equivalent


Publication date

01Nominal date of publication  

PR.20.5 Publication date (within Product composite); also supported in PR.25 Market representation within its Market Date composite

2Out-of-print / deletion date13Date when a product was (or will be) declared out of print or deleted  PR.23.34 Out-of-print date (within Product composite)
3Date of first publication11Date when the work incorporated in a product was first published  PR.20.13 Year first published (within Product composite)
4Embargo date02

If there is an embargo on retail sales in this market before a certain date, the date from which the embargo is lifted and retail sales are permitted

Embargo Date02PR.24.35 On sale date (within PR.24 Supply Detail); also supported in PR.25 Market representation within its Market Date composite
5Forthcoming reprint date26Date when a product will be reprinted*  PR.24.34 Expected availability date (a.k.a. ship date) with List 65 or 54 Availability code (within PR.24 Supply Detail)
6Last reprint date12Date when a product was last reprinted*  Could be entered under Reprint Details
7Forthcoming reissue date21Date when a product will be reissued*  PR.24.34 Expected availability date (a.k.a. ship date) with List 65 or 54 Availability code (within PR.24 Supply Detail) or PR.24.76 Reissue date (with PR.24 Supply Detail / Reissue composite)
8Publication date of print counterpart19Date of publication of a printed book that is the print counterpart to a digital edition   
9Public announcement date 09Date when a new product may be announced to the general public  PR.20.3 Announcement date (within Product composite)
10see Supply Date Role on right Last date when returns will be accepted, generally for a product that is being remaindered or put out of printLast date for returns18 
11Date of first publication in original language 20Year when the original language version of work incorporated in a product was first published (use only when different from Code 11, "Date of first publication")   
12Expected availability date after temporary withdrawal 22Date when a product that has been temporarily withdrawn from sale or recalled for any reason is expected to become available again, e.g., after correction of quality or technical issues   
12.5see Supply Date Role on right  The date on which physical stock is expected to be available for shipping to retailers, or a digital product is expected to be released by the publisher or digital asset distributor to retailers or their retail platform providersExpected availability date08PR.24.34 Expected availability date (ship date) (within PR.24 Supply Detail)
13Last reissue date 16Date when a product was last reissued*   
14Trade announcement date 10Date when a new product may be announced to trade only  PR.20.4 Trade announcement date (within Product composite)
15Transfer date  28Date of acquisition of product by new publisher (use with publishing roles 09 and 13)   
16Review embargo date23Earliest date a retail preorder can be placed (where this is distinct from the public announcement date); in the absence of a preorder embargo, advance orders can be placed as soon as metadata is available to the consumer   
17Publisher’s reservation order deadline 25Latest date on which an order may be placed with the publisher for guaranteed delivery prior to the publication date; may or may not be linked to a special reservation or pre-publication price   
17.5see Supply Date Role on right Latest date on which an order may be placed for guaranteed delivery prior to the publication date; may or may not be linked to a special reservation or pre-publication price.Reservation order deadline25 
Preorder embargo date27Earliest date a retail ‘preorder’ can be placed (where this is distinct from the public announcement date); in the absence of a preorder embargo, advance orders can be placed as soon as metadata is available to the consumer (this would be the public announcement date, or in the absence of a public announcement date, the earliest date metadata is available to the retailer)   
Date of production29For an audiovisual work (e.g., DVD)   
see Supply Date Role on right
First date on which the supplier specified in <NewSupplier> will accept orders. Note the first date would typically be the day after the old supplier end date, but they may overlap if there is an agreement to forward any orders between old and new supplier for fulfillmentNew supplier start date50
see Supply Date Role on right
Last date on which the supplier specified in <Supplier> will accept orders. New supplier should be specified where available. Note last date would typically be the day before the new supplier start date, but they may overlap if there is an agreement to forward any orders between old and new supplier for fulfillmentSupplier end date51

*reissue vs. reprint: see detailed comments in EDItEUR's Best Practice document in the Reissue Composite section. It explains both the meaning in detail and why the Reissue Composite was deprecated. To quote its definition: "A ‘reissue’ occurs when a publisher makes an existing product available (again) with revised collateral material, a redesigned cover, etc., but without significant changes to the content of the product and without any change in the product identifiers." The same document's Glossary (Section 5 Appendix) defines a reprint as: "[Print] a new impression, usually manufactured to replenish stock. Copies are essentially identical to the previous batch or impression, though may incorporate minor changes to correct errors, and they carry the same ISBN as previous impressions. Note that if the changes represent significant alterations to the content, then the new copies are a distinct edition – in ONIX terms a new product (and indeed a new work) which would also have a new ISBN (and a new ISTC)." The point of highlighting the difference is to prompt retailers to update their collateral materials.