How different are science textbooks edition to edition?
January 20, 2010 8:22 PM   Subscribe

How different are science textbooks edition to edition?

I bought a 7th edition microbio book when I should have bought the 9th edition. It's too late to change the order now, it's been shipped. I wanted to know how different a 7th edition science textbook to 9th edition science textbook would be?

I'm basically thinking it's not that different and it should be fine. But I'm trying to figure out how much of a hassle/inconvenience this is going to be. So I wanted to ask the people here what their experience has been with an older and newer edition SCIENCE textbooks. Anything I should be aware of? Thanks!
posted by proficiency101 to Education (11 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
From my experience - not a whole lot of difference, except price. In fact, when I started nursing school, they encouraged us to get older editions to save money. The only real difference was that sometimes the page numbers didn't coincide with the newer editions, so I had to search a little when I did reading assignments, etc. but it wasn't a big deal.
posted by fresh-rn at 8:30 PM on January 20, 2010

The only problems I've ever had were with page numbers being different or professors not allowing me to use the old edition. However, the only professors who cared were the ones who wrote the textbooks in the first place.
posted by The Potate at 8:37 PM on January 20, 2010

My experience is like The Potate: I bought the wrong edition of my chemistry textbook in college -- the covers were nearly identical, and I wasn't the only one -- so the teacher had to assign readings with a qualifier for each edition. Page numbers were different, illustrations were positioned differently and numbered differently, but the content itself was identical except for such small differences that none were ever brought to my attention.
posted by AzraelBrown at 8:57 PM on January 20, 2010

You might be able to find a list of changes from book to book. I think sometimes the publishers make them for professors.

In my experience, most changes are pretty small and unimportant, though it might occasionally be confusing. If you are doing problem sets in the book though, that might be an issue, since even 1 or 2 different ones can be a problem.
posted by ropeladder at 8:59 PM on January 20, 2010

If your prof gives assignments like "do problems 3, 6, 10, and 12 in Chapter 3" and you have the wrong edition, check a friend's book before turning in the homework! But the information content is probably close to identical. Publishers capture a lot of the $ that would otherwise go to the used-book market by putting out new editions.
posted by ecsh at 9:05 PM on January 20, 2010

It really depends on the text. Sometimes there can be whole sections that are added or updated to reflect new research, that kind of thing. I think your best bet would be to write the prof a brief, polite email explaining what you've explained here and ask whether s/he thinks it's going to be a big problem.

Even if there's a whole new section or chapter, you could probably just photocopy that from a friend's text. Also, sometimes profs put a copy of the required text on short-term loan at the library, so you could try comparing yours to that one.
posted by carmen at 9:06 PM on January 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Unless there's been a major reorganization of the book (which is fairly rare), you'll be fine. Check with a friend, and buy someone a beer in return for letting you photocopy any problem sets that the teacher assigns.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:18 PM on January 20, 2010

Depends on the field and the level. A text intended for upper-level classes is likely to have more changes than one intended for a freshman class, and a molecular biology text (still a relatively young science) may have some notable changes from edition to edition, while gen chem doesn't change much these days. Microbiology is probably more towards the not-changing-so-much end.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 11:04 PM on January 20, 2010

The first few pages of textbooks usually include a "what's changed since the last edition" section. I would check these for both the 8th and 9th to figure out cumulatively how different they are. If you can't find them in the books themselves, see if the publisher's website says anything about it.

If you have problems getting your hands on an 8th and 9th edition to check, try Amazon's "Look Inside the Book" feature and/or an interlibrary loan request.
posted by Jacqueline at 2:29 AM on January 21, 2010

Not much at all: publishers only bring out so many new editions in an attempt to kill the second-hand market off. That said, using another edition will probably be very irritating, as you'll constantly be having to convert a chapter/page number that you're given into the equivalent number in your version.
posted by chorltonmeateater at 2:33 AM on January 21, 2010

Ask your professor. In my experience, when a professor assigned a text that frequently came out in new editions, they were able to say whether a certain previous edition would be acceptable or not.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:39 AM on January 21, 2010

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