If you’ve done any searching for cheap textbooks, you’ve probably come across international editions as an option. A lot of people are confused as to what international editions are, or even if they are legal to buy, so here are some answers to the biggest questions about the international editions of your textbooks.
Are international editions legal?
First, buying international editions from overseas is entirely legal. In a Times article titled Outsourcing the Textbook, Claire Suddath said that “it’s legal for students to buy them for personal use, but illegal for anyone to resell them outside of their intended country.” This means that while the individual selling the book is breaking copyright law, the buyer is not. So far, there has been no crackdown on these sellers, and online retailers like Ebay and Amazon are placing the responsibility on their sellers to adhere to any applicable laws. Long story short, if the seller will sell it, then you’re free to buy it.
Why are international editions cheaper?
Is something wrong with them? The answer is no, they are simply made more cheaply to be sold at prices international buyers can afford. Suddath said these books are”printed frequently in India, although sometimes in other Asian nations — under copyright agreements with Western publishers that allow the books to be sold for a discounted price.” If you think about it, publishers are simply charging what the market will bear, and it bears a lot less internationally so prices are lower.
I think this analogy from an articleon Free Online Textbooks.net sums it up nicely. “The textbook publishing industry can be likened to the healthcare industry in the sense that both of these industry’s products are often much cheaper overseas than they are the United States.”
Are international editions different?
Typically the international editions will differ only slightly from their much more expensive American versions. They are almost always paperback instead of hardcover and printed in black and white. They may also be missing supplementary materials such as workbooks or companion CDs, but these can often be purchased separately. When it comes to content, they are usually identical, right down to example problems and page numbers.
How much can I save?
The Biblio.com blog says that while some students save as much as 75%, “international edition textbooks save students an average of 50% over the prices offered at their college bookstores.” So how can you start saving? You just have to know where to look. Most online retailers sell international editions, although finding them can be difficult as they often have different ISBN numbers than their American counterparts. Again, Biblio.com recommends that you search by title and author in addition the ISBN. It’s also a good idea to fully read the description of each listing to make sure it matches the U.S. version you were assigned.
Have you ever purchased an international edition textbook? Was it a good buy, or were there issues with the international version? Let me know in your comments!