Finding the Right Edition For A Text

Finding the correct edition of a text can be confusing. Usually there are different incarnations of different texts, ranging from the most common, such as classic novels, to academic text books that come out with a new edition every year. Variations of books can have discrepancies in page numbers, different editing or translations. Furthermore, other types of publications like exhibition catalogues or pamphlets can be hard to locate in the correct format. The beauty of online booksellers, however, is that you can search for a particular text with remarkable precision, using different search criteria to find what you’re looking for, with the added benefit that often, more obscure texts can show up in unlikely places. The public library may not have the exact version of a mid-century novel or collection of poetry you’re looking for, with the introduction by that particular scholar which you’re studying, but it’s very possible that it may be lurking somewhere in the world. If it is, you can find it using the Internet, and get as specific as you like. Here are a few tips to guide you along the way.

Related: 10 Ways to Save Your Money From the Textbook Black Hole

Scholarly Online Databases

Finding the Right Edition For A Text
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Whether you’re an academic researcher looking for obscure material, a college student who needs a specific edition of a book for a class or an avid reader, you first need to find the particulars of your goal. In other words, the more specific information you can gather, the better. Often, books and texts will have different editors, introductions or translators. When you find the text most useful to you, make a note of these details that will distinguish the text you want from other editions. You can use them to search for the book online. Mark down the ISBN, place of publication, year, authors or contributors and publishing house. These are the things that make published texts unique. It’s possible to search online for free, scholarly databases such as and, for example, to find just the citation information. Often an expensive subscription to access further documents on the database is required, but the most valuable information is finding that the text exists and where it was published. You might be able to find out that a particular edition or publication was printed of which you weren’t aware before by using a keyword such as the creator’s name, the subject or other query terms.

Pinpointing Your Selection

When you’re ready to start your search, the best place to find a wide range of texts is online booksellers, since they come from all corners of the globe. Sometimes the text you’re seeking might come from an international seller. If possible, do multilingual searches as well, using a free online translator. If the book you’re looking for is about an artist in a non-English-speaking country, for example, search for their name in their native language. One surefire ways to find specific books also is an ISBN search. An ISBN is a number is a 10 or 13 digit number that is assigned to a text by one, official ISBN agency within that country, according to the website of the United States ISBN Agency. Every edition of a text that’s published gets its own, unique ISBN, regardless of whether it’s the same novel. If there’s a reissue of a text, it gets a new ISBN. This is a very exact science and a great way to find the book you’re looking for.

Hope The Professor Uses Old Editions

Professors usually get the updated editions of their favorite textbooks for free because the publishers know that if they use that book, then the class will be buying them.  Not a bad idea on their part but it can make things expensive for students each term.  I always respected the professors who hung on to older editions of their books. Really, how much does a math textbook really change anyways?  The older editions of the textbook is very similar and is worth searching for if it can save you $100.  We wrote another article for saving money while buying textbooks a while back to explain this.  Sometimes, you don’t even need every textbook from your syllabus anyway!

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