Strategy 2: Buy International Edition Textbooks

Same book, different cover

NOTE: Each of these editions should have pictures of an international version compared to its more traditional counterpart to show that, though they look different, they are the same content wise.

International Edition textbooks are one of the best kept secrets in the textbook industry. In general, an International Edition is the same content-wise as the Student Edition, though the page numbers may be slightly off and spelling conventions may differ (colour versus color, for example.) International Textbooks are priced for the rest of the world (which is to say, reasonably) so if you can get your hands on one, you can save hundreds.

The student edition's version of the book cover
Student edition
The international edition's version of the book cover
International edition

Are international editions legal?

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about International Edition textbooks, so let’s clear some things up straight away. Yes, you are legally allowed to buy and sell International Edition textbooks, thanks to a landmark Supreme Court case Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

>> Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Supap Kirtsaeng moves to the US to go to college. He realizes textbooks are much cheaper in his native Thailand, so he asks relatives to buy the textbooks in Thailand, ship them to him in the US, and he’ll sell them at a profit. Eventually the publisher, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., files a lawsuit against him. It gets to the Supreme Court, who rules in Kirtsaeng’s favor: he’s allowed to keep buying International Editions in Thailand and selling them in the US.

The result of Kirtsaeng v. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. hinged on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the first-sale doctrine. The first-sale doctrine essentially states that a copyright holder (in this case, John Wiley & Sons, Inc.) no longer has control of a copyrighted object once it is sold. (The first-sale doctrine is why you can sell your car without needing to get permission from the manufacturer.) The court ruled in Kirtsaeng’s favor (and upheld the first-sale doctrine), which means you get to buy International Edition textbooks whenever you want, wherever you want.

What's in a name

Since you (probably) want your International Textbook to be in English, it’s safe to assume the books you’re going to be poring through follow these naming conventions. Depending on where the textbook was made, it can have differences in cover art, ISBN, page numbers, paper quality, and in rare cases International Versions of textbooks may have chapters that the standard US version does not have, or vice versa.

International edition - This is the standard naming convention most publishers use for textbooks that are sold overseas to differentiate them from the Student Edition we get in the United States. These textbooks are almost always identical to the Student Edition.

International Edition textbooks are designed to mirror the student edition that is sold in the US, even though their target market is outside the states. You should feel confident ordering a textbook with “International Edition” in the title. Just make sure that the edition number of the International Edition you’re looking for matches the edition number of the US edition. International Editions go through edition updates just like the Student Edition.

Global edition - Global Edition textbooks are published with the intended audience of the rest of the world, outside of the United States. Global Edition textbooks are not a direct mirror of their North American cousins. They are written for an audience outside the US, which means you can expect them to have more differences than the average International Edition. These books frequently use the metric system for measurements and follow naming and spelling conventions that don’t jive with American English, and they may cover different topics depending on the book.

New Pearson international - NPI is another type of Global Edition published only by Pearson and intended for courses taught outside the US, so while some content may be the same as the US edition, many NPI textbooks feature different content.

Global Editions are slightly less of a sure thing than the above International Edition because they are designed to target a non-American audience. The books will have a majority of the same content, but there are likely to be more differences with Global Editions compared to the Student Edition you’ll find in your campus bookstore.

Eastern economy edition, India edition, TATA edition, low-cost edition - For these various editions, content is usually the same as the Global Edition but the quality of the paper can be lower than what you’re used to. Sometimes Eastern Economy textbooks are missing chapters or sections you’d normally get in the Student Edition. For example, an EEE textbook from China probably wouldn’t include the chapter on the Tiananmen Square Massacre. For India Editions, as with the Eastern Economy Editions, the quality of the paper is often much lower than what you might expect for a traditional textbook. That isn’t to say these books are a bad quality, merely that some of the money you save when buying them comes out of the paper quality. These books aren’t going to have shiny, glossy pictures or thick paper.

These editions may sometimes have different binding from the Student Edition and alternate spelling conventions. The Low-Cost Edition is frequently paperback, spiral bound, or printed on lower quality paper to reduce the cost of the book. Low quality paper is usually thinner, more like onion-skin than notebook paper, and the printed pictures can be grainy, which means colors can be distorted.

You want to weigh the options when you’re looking to get one of these editions. They are definitely the least expensive option, but there is some element of risk for you, and differences between these International Editions and the textbook on the campus bookstore’s shelf can be inconvenient. You may need to borrow the Student Edition from a friend if you decide to buy one of these International Editions to fill in any gaps in content.

Asian pacific edition, Australian edition, Canadian edition - These are just a few of the names typically associated with Global or International Edition textbooks. Asian Pacific is considered the same quality level as Eastern Economy Edition, while the Australian Edition and Canadian Edition Textbooks are almost always identical to the International Edition we already mentioned.

A Note

Keep in mind that these are generalizations about each of the categories, and your mileage may vary depending on the textbook. It’s best to double check yourself before you buy to guarantee you get the textbook you want.