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Editions of a Textbook

  1. Oct 1, 2013 #1

    I was curious to know if anyone else has made the same observation as myself. After having read older editions of some text, and compared them to the newer editions, I have noticed that some of the older editions are better. Is this generally true? How can I discern between the older editions of a particular textbook and its newer edition? I ask, because rather than buy every edition of a textbook, and compare them myself, I would rather buy just buy one edition that generally seen as good.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2013 #2
    To me, the editions change very little, it's only over time where the differences become noticeable, i.e. the 8th and 7th edition of a textbook will be largely the same, but the 2nd edition will be a lot different from the 7th or 8th. That said, I tend to go 1-2 editions older than what is currently in use when I purchase textbooks because the price difference is so great. 3 or more editions older and then the problems become different, usually one uses a textbook for the problem sets, which are not changed very much from one edition to the next
  4. Oct 1, 2013 #3
    Hmm, interesting. Recently, I was looking at the 2nd edition of Boyce and Diprima's Differential Equations, and comparing it to the 10th edition: the difference was so drastic; they were barely even the same book. I suppose my worry is, that newer books, and newer editions, appear to be a little more "dumbed down", if you will, when compared to there older-edition counterpart.
  5. Oct 1, 2013 #4
    I haven't done a rigorous examination of both an old and newer textbook, but my gut feeling is that the newer stuff uses a lot more visuals to help aid in learning, which to me is overall a wonderful thing. It's less cut and dry and boring
  6. Oct 2, 2013 #5
    Yes, IMBO there is an alarming trend with 'mainstream' textbooks.
    They are are either dumbed down in their content, or printed in such a way to look like children books: big and full of (mostly unnecessary) colors. The latter behavior can be explained with the publishers' desire to discourage photocopying them (ending up in punishing the very people who are giving them money). As for the former... well, I expect future textbook to come out in 140 characters.

    This is a trend I have personally observed, but it is by no means the rule. Some books gets better with newer editions - amended, corrected, updated, expanded. But my subjective point of view is that the main trend is toward dumbing them down.
    (Alonso and Finn's University Physics is one example)

    Look at the silver lining: older used books that are even better than the newer ones can also cost much less.
    (Though neither this is a rule :-) )
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2013
  7. Oct 3, 2013 #6
    SredniVashtar, thank you for your insight. Would anyone happen to know if there is some old textbook repository, that is, some website--or even physical place--that reprints old textbooks and sells them? I ask, because I fear that all of these great old textbooks will soon vanish, unless someone does something about it.
  8. Oct 3, 2013 #7


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    i have a universal preference for older, preferably first editions of all books, because that is the only edition that was approved by the author, before the publisher and the public weighed in with requests to dumb it down.

    the website abebooks.com sells used books and that is where i go for old editions of books.
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