Buying Books You Already Own: Why New Editions Matter I Oxford Open Learning


    Buying Books You Already Own: Why New Editions Matter

    Your reading list probably asks you for newest editions of novels and textbooks. If you own some older editions of these texts already, you might think; ‘why do I need to rebuy something I already own?’ It can be an annoying question, particularly for your parent or legal guardian. After all, it’s their money! Due to cost-of-living pressures, many parents are now spending less on books for their kids. If you have an older sibling, it’s even possible your parents were planning on passing their books down to you. Unfortunately, it’s a plan that’s unlikely to succeed. So, why do you need to purchase the newest editions of books that you may already own? Well, we’ve tried to provide a few different answers to that question for you below.

    Presentation for Curriculum Requirements

    Over the years, the curriculums have changed. Studying is a lot more learner-friendly than it used to be. Let’s use English literature as an example. Textbooks for the subject would often present quite rigorous, factual questions, very much looking for answers that were distinctly ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. However, things began to change in the mid-1990s.

    Some of the textbooks for English literature test pupils quite differently today. Now, schoolkids and home learners alike are tested on more interpretative questions, ones where your reading of the text is more important. You’re allowed to argue your points, and so long as they’re well-structured, well-written, and well-reasoned points, they’re generally marked favourably. It might seem tempting to get an older textbook for a more affordable price, but you’ll also be subjecting yourself to a different mode of learning when it comes to English literature. One that’s incompatible with modern curriculums! That difference likely extends to several other subjects as well.

    The Condition of the Book

    You might agree that, generally, many people don’t treat their books very well. Instead of arranging them neatly on a shelf at home, some of these books might live in bags or under furniture for months at a time, folded and creased. Others might doodle in their books, spill drinks on the pages, or even playfully use them as weapons against friends. They can also be rudely vandalised for a laugh. So, publishers quite understandably think that passing these texts down and around isn’t always a good idea. Older editions are bound to carry a few ‘battle scars’.
    So, if your reading lists ask you for a new edition of a text, it possibly means the person curating it may be trying to evade some of these common issues. It’s not a guarantee – new editions of a text are typically released every 3-4 years with most publishers. Still, the newest edition of a text is harder to buy or borrow second-hand. It all means your learning is less likely to be interrupted, and you can enjoy the reading precisely as intended.

    Author Changes

    Many authors publish their books and insist the first copy is the final copy. They can get quite touchy about it, believing their integrity and reputation as a writer is on the line.
    Others take a more relaxed approach when it comes to making changes. It’s still quite rare they do so, but it does happen! For example, Stephen King rewrote the ending of his 1978 novel, ‘The Stand’, revising the ending once in 1990, and then again for the 2020 TV miniseries adaptation. You’re unlikely to read a Stephen King text for study before university, but the larger point here is that even high-calibre authors do make changes, sometimes. The changes aren’t typically small, either. They can be so large that they fundamentally alter the message and mood of a text. So, in buying the newest edition, you can be sure that you’re grappling with the most relevant copy of a fiction.

    Textbooks Can be Wrong

    It’s easy to think of study as memorising bulletproof facts. Empirical information is presented to you with great authority, and your learning is rightly taken quite seriously. However, it’s not just authors that might like to change things around. It’s also true that so-called ‘factual’ textbooks can be wrong. After all, even long held scientific understandings about the age of the universe can later be questioned or even outright disproved. The knowledge of the human race is pretty ‘far off’ sometimes, and that’s okay.

    This doesn’t mean everything you’re reading is redundant. However, it does mean that buying the latest edition of a text means that you’re more likely to engage with information that is accurate, up-to-date, and has been revised and amended as many times as possible. It also teaches you a valuable a lesson, too; that the learning journey never ends. Professional scientists and scholars are always experimenting and updating their knowledge, presenting incorrect answers to eventually find the correct ones. Equipped with that understanding, you may approach your own learning more comfortably and confidently. It’s okay to be wrong sometimes!

    Bonus Material

    Newest editions of a text often come with bonus material to make a purchase more enticing for consumers. Some of these add-ons can benefit you during your home learning. You’ll likely know what an appendix is. It’s a section of nonessential writing at the end of an academic text. It’s bonus material, featuring anything from quick notes to scanned letters and maps. Sometimes these are updated for newer editions of books and provide unique insights into the text you’re reading. However, appendices in older editions are not always reprinted for newest editions. It may vary on a text-by-text basis!

    Newer editions of a text may also feature better quality, brand-new, and more frequent illustrations, graphs, and other visual spectacles too. It may seem like a small thing, but these additions can break up an overwhelming wall of text and make it more engaging to engage with as a result.

    So, there you have it. In reading the points above, we hope you’ve come to understand that newest editions of books bring you, as the reader, ‘closer’ to the text. You can more easily understand and relate to what’s written and the people who wrote it, which should benefit you greatly on your learning journey!


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    I'm a freelance copywriter with an undergraduate degree in English Literature. I've written for many different outlets, including but not limited to marketing agencies, graduate recruitment websites, and online training companies. I've even interviewed a few famous actors for student and arts blogs too! Covering a wide span of material has been incredibly rewarding, as I get to turn my experiences in the arts, education and careers into helpful advice. I sincerely hope you'll find something to your liking here!