Splitting & merging

Guidelines for splitting and merging works


A group of records is called a work. A work groups all the different editions and versions of the same book into one page. For example, “Black Beauty” by Anna Sewell was published in large print as well as in several different illustrated editions. Another edition has an introduction by Charles Keeping. All of these different editions can be considered the same work.

When you search Trove, each result in the list is a work. Works are not limited to books. Articles, maps, and so on can also be grouped.

One simple question

If you are considering merging two books, think about what the response of your local public librarian or book-seller would be if you called them and asked:

“Do you have book X?”

If their reply would be “Yes…”, or “Yes, but …” then you should merge them, or leave them merged. Otherwise, you should leave them separate, or separate them if they are currently combined.

For example, they may reply:

  • “Yes, but it’s the paperback edition”
  • “Yes, but it’s the illustrated first edition and costs $1500″
  • “Yes, but it’s the audio book”
  • “Yes, but it’s the Portuguese translation”
  • “Yes, but it’s the modifed-for-TV AO version of Last Tango in Paris” (in response for a request for the film)
  • “No, but we have the film of Pride and Prejudice” (when you’ve asked for the book)
  • “No, but we have the study guide”
  • “No, but we have the Reader’s Digest Condensed version”
  • “No, but we have some of the poems it contains in the Treasury of Poetry Bumper Edition
  • “No, but we have the modifed-for-TV AO version of Last Tango in Paris” (in response for a request for The Sound of Music)

Grouping guidelines

  • Group different editions of the same work, even if they have a different language, illustrations, are slightly abridged, or written in braille.
  • Group like with like. A map should not be grouped with a book.
  • Don’t group a significantly different work with the original. For example, the 24 page little golden book “Walt Disney’s Peter Pan” is not the same work as “Peter Pan” by J.M. Barrie.
  • If there are more than a hundred or so different versions, it’s okay to start thinking about whether the work should be broken up further, in order to be more manageable.

More questions…

This isn’t always as clear cut as it first seems, as you can see from these questions we continually ask ourselves:

Should the audio-book version be grouped with the normal paper editions?

We answer “yes”, because it is basically the same thing, read out loud. But we worry that the “audience” for each format is probably quite different. But our worry is assuaged by the reasoning that “well, the audience for the Turkish and Greek versions are quite different too, and the audience for the braille and non-brailled versions are quite different, so you don’t really group just on audience!”. And that’s true: we aim for “the same things” being grouped, regardless of the language of expression, or publisher, or format or revisions across editions.

Should the e-book be grouped with the normal paper editions?

We answer “yes”, because an e-book version is really just another type of format. The difference will often be important, as it will be for people interested in large print or Braille versions, but nonetheless, the underlying work is basically “the same”.

Should the abridged, or children’s edition be grouped with the full editions?

We answer “mostly no”, because the abridgement or rewriting to produce a children’s edition is a significant exercise, and the result of that effort is substantially different. We argue with ourselves that a new edition of a book is too, and hence by following that logic, some editions should be separate works. But the difference is that the audience for such new editions is almost always the same as the old edition, that the process of producing a new edition is often incremental, and that the two editions are typically more substitutable than the children’s edition would be with either.

Should a DVD of a film be grouped with a VCR of the same film?

We answer “yes”, because they are often substitutes – you may prefer the DVD, but the VCR may be acceptable.

Should a film version be grouped with the book version?

We answer “no”, because they are fundamentally different things, widely separated acts of creation. We think it is important that searchers find both, and if they come across one or the other, we tell them about “related” works, but that they don’t belong together and someone looking for one will typically not be satisfied with the other (If you rang your bookseller and asked “Do you have copy of the film Pride and Prejudice?” and they responded “Yes, but we have the book version”, you’d probably be confused: you’d have thought “No, but…” was more appropriate.

Why group?

The benefits of grouping different versions into one work include:

  • The search results are not cluttered up with many different results for the same thing.
  • It’s easier to find a copy of the item you are looking for, as all the electronic versions and library locations are shown on one page.

NOTE: When defining a work, we have taken the definition we consider the most useful. This implementation is FRBR-like, but does not strictly conform to FRBR.