A personal note, and New Textbook Editions: Scam or Substance?

 First, a personal note:

Thanks to all the great comments and suggestions I have gotten on this blog.  Over the past week I was able to step back and reflect a bit as I took my family on vacation to Disney World.  Well, I wouldn’t really call it a vacation as we didn’t get much rest, but it was nice to spend time with the family and enjoy seeing my kids experience the magic of Disney.  If you haven’t been in a while the place has really changed–I haven’t been in almost 20 years.  I consider myself a pretty organized person but this trip tested my trip planning and execution skills. There’s so much to do that it’s overwhelming to figure out where to start!  Now that I have spent a few days at each park I am much more knowledgeable (No, I am not starting a new blog).  Pretty cool how one place can cater to people from newborns to senior citizens.

Refreshed and recharged I have a nice calendar of new blog posts to share with you as we start to build up to the August back to school rush.  If you have any stories you want to see, let me know!

With the prices of new textbooks skyrocketing, and new editions coming out every couple of years, many students find themselves wondering if it’s really necessary to buy the newest edition. Sometimes entire chapters are added or page numbers are entirely reshuffled, but in other cases, it’s a few new photos or an introduction. The Irish Independent (albeit in Europe, not the US) asserted that most of the changes to textbooks are surface design changes.

This is important to know for students on a budget, who may not always be able to buy the new edition of every textbook.
Here’s a list of general classes, and whether or not it’s a good idea to use older editions of textbooks assigned to them:

English:

English classes tend to use some sort of grammar book or reader for lower division classes, and novels for both upper and lower divisions. The most popular English book is the APA Manual.  This book literally has thousands of ISBN’s because each school will custom publish a few pages with the rules from the English department.  Any APA manual, as long as it is current should work.  Students can also use citation websites such as EasyBib to check their citations.  General Literature books, especially those that are “public domain”  may be published by multiple printers and are mostly available for free online.  Has “The Scarlet Letter” or “Hamlet” really changed that much? Oftentimes, it’s just supplementary material like prologues, epilogues, and questions for further thought, that might be different between editions, but for the most part you’re safe. Just check the page numbers your teacher assigns.

History: 

Like English books, history books don’t really change too much between editions, either. There’s not a lot that can be changed about history, besides how it’s written, or the questions at the end of the chapters. However, as we know from the Texas textbook scandal, plenty of bigger changes can be made. Double-check with your professor, but with history books it’s usually safe to use the older version, too.

Math:

Math is probably going to cause you some problems. While the math may fundamentally be the same, newer editions may use different teaching methods, examples, and practice problems. This can pose a problem when you’re using a different version of the text than your professor, and none of your answers match, or you practice the wrong techniques and lose points. Generally, it’s a better idea to stick with the newest edition of math textbooks, unless your professor explicitly says it’s okay not to.

Science:

Science is another subject in which you don’t want to risk not having the most recent, relevant information. The rate at which new discoveries are made in the sciences, as well as new theories formed, is so rapid that there will be something new and important in almost every textbook edition released. You don’t want to take a test and not know about a major discovery just because you wanted to save $30 and bought an older edition of the book. There are other ways to save money on textbooks, but in the case of any science class, it’s a lot better to stay up to date.

With many of your other subjects, it’s not too much of a problem to use an older edition of the assigned textbook, as long as it’s only one or two editions older than the current one.

For those of you students who are constantly wondering whether or not it’s okay to forgo spending the extra money on the newest edition of a textbook, I would say the rule of thumb is to ask your professor. You can never be too safe, and most of the time they’ll tell you that it’s completely okay to not use the new edition!