General Question

Mama_Cakes's avatar

When textbook companies come out with new editions, how different are they from previous editions?

Asked by Mama_Cakes (9289 points ) September 7th, 2012

It’s assrapeage when you’re told to buy the latest edition, sometimes.

I am talking University textbooks.

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15 Answers

wonderingwhy's avatar

Depends on the subject and the focus of the book. A fast-changing subject dealt with by a book whose focus is to capture the latest info could have significant differences. A slower-paced or core-focused book could see largely cosmetic (page number) or clarification/example changes with perhaps only a chapter or handful of paragraphs being added as new or updated content. Same goes for the course, a course focused on the most contemporary advancements tends to make older editions irrelevant faster.

When in doubt ask the professor, just make sure their name isn’t on the book first. If it’s just a chapter or some minor updates, attending lecture, keeping up on problem sets, and doing a little online research can frequently make up the differences between this year’s and previous editions. (Assuming the last edition is at least somewhat frequent of course. Even slow subjects can see major updates over a decade).

DeanV's avatar

It really depends on the book and the class in question. Obviously a journalism textbook from 1994 isn’t going to very useful in today’s Internet dominated classes, but it’s quite common for math textbooks to only rearrange question orders for each edition.

Aethelflaed's avatar

It’s very often not that different. Sometimes, they add in a couple more pictures, rearrange a chapter or two, maybe add in a few paragraphs, and then charge insane amounts. Ask your professors if you can use an older edition.

Mama_Cakes's avatar

Yes, I am talking about the ones that change from year to year, or over the last 2 or 3 years.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yeah, chances are, nothing much has changed.

zenvelo's avatar

When I took basic Accounting, the text book was new every three years. The only thing they updated was arcane notices from the FASB. And they had the gall to say “Keep this book as the Foundation of your Accounting Library.”

It was near impossible to find a used copy.

marinelife's avatar

It totally depends on the text book. You should live with it and buy the edition specified.

Crashsequence2012's avatar

They must contain at least 20% new material BY LAW.

Jeruba's avatar

Even if you don’t see major changes that are obvious from the table of contents—addition of new chapters, updating of recent history, reorganization of material—there may be small revisions throughout the book. I have been paid to edit a textbook’s second edition that not only incorporated recent studies but also contained a quantity of refinements, correction of small errors, and updating of certain terminology throughout. It also had a new index.

By the same token, my film studies teacher (about 2 years ago) told us that if we had the 11th edition, we were fine, and not to bother with the 12th unless we especially wanted the new one. He gave assignments by chapter and not by page number, so there was no problem following the syllabus. The difference there was mostly in references to and still photos from recent films. I wouldn’t have taken the chance if it had been in a class with volatile subject matter, such as anything scientific, technical, historical, or political.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hopefully they will have corrected the typos.

Bellatrix's avatar

As has been suggested, the changes can be dramatic of very small. Once a new edition comes in I may have no option to change to that edition because the publisher doesn’t have sufficient stocks of the old edition for students to buy. If I have written materials that specify reading particular chapters or sections of the book, I need to change those materials. So, if you don’t buy the new edition, other materials provided by your lecturer may be out of synch. Plus they may be talking about up-to-date case studies that you can’t read or use as part of a piece of assessment because you have the old book.

I would suggest you speak to your lecturer and ask whether the version you have (or can access) will suffice. If the lecturer is aware the changes between the two editions won’t affect your studies, they will be able to advise you.

Nullo's avatar

In well-established fields, the differences often come down to things like chapter layout. Anything to justify the expense of a new book.

Bellatrix's avatar

*or – too late to edit.

phaedryx's avatar

Utah secondary education has switched to open textbooks.

“In earlier pilot programs, open textbooks have been printed and provided to more than 3,800 Utah high school science students at a cost of about $5 per book, compared to an average cost of about $80 for a typical high school science textbook.”

I wish the same thing were happening at the university level. It is a (cruel) joke.

I asked a question about it earlier this year; pretty interesting.

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