Cataloging E-Monographs: Born Digital


This document [formerly Cataloging Online Books: Electronic Editions] has been revised to be consistent with General Website Cataloging Policies & Procedures instituted Feb. 2008 & the PCC Guidelines for Provider-Neutral e-Monographs instituted in the fall of 2009 and updated for RDA in 2013. 


SCOPE. Our documentation has separate cataloging guidelines provided for electronic resources depending upon (1) mode of access, (2) mode of issuance, and (3) availability of source copy. The primary focus of this document is on the cataloging of electronic monographic works accessed online when source copy is not available. This document applies if all of the following conditions are met:

  1. The resource is a remote access electronic resource.
  2. Accessibility of the resource meets the conditions described in General Website Cataloging Policies & Procedures (items c. & f.) Regarding item f.: conditions are not met if the site requires the user to log on.
  3. The resource is issued as a monograph. It is not updated.
  4. The monograph is "born-digital," i.e, it is not a reproduction of  a resource known to be available in another format (e.g. print, microform, CD-ROM), or,
  5. A print version is available in another format but no bibliographic record exists for it in the database

These guidelines may be used for original cataloging within the scope described above. The guidelines should not be applied to original cataloging based on a bibliographic record for a version in another format. The latter situation is covered in E-Monographs (Variant Format & Copy Cataloging).

Remote Access vs. Direct Access

Remote access electronic resources are accessed over a computer network such as the Internet. Direct access electronic resources have a tangible carrier (See RDA Glossary). For an  example see, Census 2000, Summary File 1, available on DVD (a direct access electronic resource) and online (a remote access electronic resource). A bibliographic record should be created for each format.* Guidelines for cataloging CDs, DVDs, and other direct access electronic resources are available.

Monographs vs. Integrating Resources

Some monographs in print format become integrating resources when issued online because they are continually or frequently updated and updates are integrated into the whole. Compare, for example, Encyclopedia of American Foreign Policy (a monograph) and Wikipedia (an integrating resource). Guidelines for cataloging online integrating resources are available.

Born-Digital vs. Reproduction Cataloging

Based on the 2013 PCC guidelines, generally consider any online monograph with the same content as the print version* to be a candidate for reproduction (variant format) cataloging. Guidelines for online reproductions are documented in the PCC Provider-Neutral guidelines. Online monographs with no print version counterpart should be cataloged following the PCC BIBCO Standard Record (BSR) RDA Metadata Application Profile for all formats plus rare materials. If there is a print version counterpart lacking a bibliographic record in the database (OCLC), catalog the online version following the PCC Provider-Neutral guidelines. When in doubt, assume there is a print counterpart.

*Print version can include: physical printed books, microform, CD-ROM. The print version can pre-date release of the online book or be published simultaneously with the online version.

The Adventures of Don Juan would be cataloged as "born-digital," while Creep mechanics should be cataloged using the variant format guidelines.


For additional guidance, consult Provider Neutral E-Monograph MARC Record Guide and RDA.

Before proceeding with cataloging, enter the 856 field into the bibliographic record and test the URL provided by the selector. Verify that the URL meets condition 2. If it does not, contact the selector, acquisitions, or your supervisor as appropriate. Do not proceed with cataloging until condition 2 is met [the resource cannot require payment and the URL must be able to point directly to the title cited in 245]. Note that some sites will allow direct access only after you log on; this does not meet condition 2. Until the issues are resolved, the in-process record should be suppressed.

Sources of Information

For online resources, the chief source of information is a. textual content b. embedded metadata that contains a title (RDA The RDA source instructions for images of pages, leaves, or cards ( would apply to reproductions, not born-digital text.  

Effective Date: 
Monday, May 5, 2014
Last modified: 
Tuesday, December 13, 2022 - 3:01pm