The syllabus directs you to buy the newest edition of the textbook which is selling for $125 freakin' dollars. But, hmmm... the older edition is selling for only 1 penny!
"Huh", you think, "Should I buy the older edition and take a chance that I won't be missing anything in the new edition?"
"What if the pages and chapters are all numbered differently? I'll be lost trying to follow the assignments on the syllabus!"
"I'd better just pay the freakin' extra $124.99 for the new edition -- just to be on the safe side."
I can't tell you how many times I've had that conversation with myself. Then I finally realized the obvious solution.
Buy both copies! (I'm talking about buying them sight unseen from an online store - if you are in a physical bookstore and physically looking at both copies, of course, don't buy both the old and the new editions... just make your decision in the store.)
At any rate, by ordering both the old and the new editions online, I can decide which copy to keep and then just turn around and sell the other copy.
Nine times out of ten, the new edition is so closely matched to the older edition... it would be pointless to buy the new one. I am beginning to love older editions because they save me so much money.
To give you an idea of how much money... I can fund a summer vacation in Hawaii for two whole weeks from the savings. (I do buy a lot of textbooks, it's my job - so your mileage may vary.)
Once in a while, especially in the sciences or technology areas - new editions are substantially different from the older editions and it's worth every penny to get the newer edition.
I was a total sheep when it came to textbooks. If the syllabus said... 4th Edition, I bought the 4th Edition... even if it was $125, instead of the lousy three bucks for the 3rd Edition.
Really. Since becoming wise in the ways of moolah, I've come across "all new, updated!" editions where I couldn't actually see anything that had been updated. Nothing at all had been changed in the new edition. Nothing except the outrageous price. And the cover to fool you into thinking you were getting something different from the older edition.
All that money I wasted in my dumbnut days. Jupiter!
One thing I've noticed is that campus bookstores almost always run out of the cheaper, older editions and they don't discount the older editions like the online stores do. You'll have a hard time finding a textbook for a penny in a brick and mortar bookstore.
But there are thousands upon thousands of them at good ol' Amazon.
An Example of Lazy Greedy PublishersAs an example of how lazy publishers can be, take a look at this textbook The Paralegal Professional: Essentials (3rd Edition) ISBN 0135064015 which was updated to the "ALL NEW" 3rd edition, in 2011. The cost is $125.00 for a new copy, on Amazon.
UPDATE: There is now a 4th Edition available for $175.00 ! I don't know how much it's been "updated" but my guess is - not by much.
Let's compare the 2011, 3rd edition to the 2nd edition from 2008, which is .01 cents for a used copy. The chapters are the same. The text is the same. The questions and exercises are the same. Everything is the same! What makes this an update? I don't know. The new price? Oh, the picture on the cover is different?
There are things in the all new, 2011 edition that really need to be updated. Like the information about internet browsers, on page 151...
"The two most popular browsers are Microsoft Explorer and AOL..."AOL? ha ha... A prime example of just how lazy these publishers are. They can't even be bothered to update the obvious.
The section on technology and the internet is shamefully outdated and yet... this is the all new, 3rd edition textbook. And, it costs a lot of money. For What? Every page in the book is exactly the same as the previous edition.
Lesson: Compare editions, buy the older edition if the versions are essentially the same and save your money!