When you buy a cheap textbook online, you do not always know where it is coming from. Occasionally, you may come across a textbook published outside the United States. These are called international edition textbooks. Sometimes these books are referred to as “low price editions.”

You are likely unfamiliar with international edition textbooks because bookstores in the United States typically do not sell them. There are several reasons why. First, by selling international edition textbooks United States bookstores could infringe on the sale and distribution rights of the international publisher. They could also jeopardize their business partnership with US based publication offices. While online sales have skyrocketed over the years, publishers still benefit from bookstores selling their products online and in the shop. Bookstores benefit from selling trusted textbooks by acclaimed publishers. Thus, the business partnership is important to respect. 

Despite the rare access of international edition textbooks found on the shelves of US bookstores, these editions are becoming more commonly used by college students. 

What are international edition textbooks? 

International edition textbooks are books that are published by the international counterparts of educational publishers. Educational publishers have a global reach and thus publish their books in the United States and all over the world. Most often they do this to cut down on their own costs of printing and shipping. Through this process they are able to print slightly different versions with different types of materials (paper, color, etc.). The content and quality of knowledge contained within these textbooks are the same as their US printed counterparts. These books are commonly less expensive to purchase. News of this price gap was exposed in the early 2000s by The New York Times

Stack of textbooks

Where can I find international edition textbooks? 

Since most bookstores in the United States are not selling international edition textbooks, you can find them online. BookScouter gladly hosts sellers and buyers of international edition textbooks. Other online platforms where you can most easily find international edition textbooks include Amazon and eBay

While gaining access to these editions can feel overwhelming at first, using a key search strategy will help you identify these books with ease. When searching for international edition textbooks online, use keywords like “international edition” and “international” along with the ISBN. This strategy will bring these special edition books to the top of your list. Looking for these textbooks on quality sites like Amazon, eBay, and BookScouter will also help you navigate your search with ease. 

What is important to know about international edition textbooks? 

Whether you are buying or selling textbooks if you purchase a textbook from outside the United States, it is important to know if the book is an international edition. While international edition textbooks are very similar to their US published counterparts, there is potential for some difference. These differences are most common in the printing process. Even with potential differences, these textbooks are still great resources for you. If you are selling a textbook it is important for you to understand copyright laws. 

Sometimes international textbooks will print in black and white instead of color. This shouldn’t make too much of a difference in some textbooks. However, if there are diagrams and illustrations, this could impact your ability to understand the material. Another difference could be the type of paper used. It has been noted on several discussion boards that some international editions have thinner pages while their counterparts contain glossy pages. Occasionally an international edition will have a different ISBN. 

Despite potential differences, international edition textbooks should still line up by page numbers and any problem sets presented should be the same with exact answers. 

When considering selling an international edition textbook, it is very important to understand copyright law. In 2013 a very interesting court battle lead to the Supreme Court ruling in favor of an international edition textbook re-seller. The result gave textbook resellers confidence that their work of buying and reselling international editions truly is covered by the first sale doctrine.  

How can I tell that a book is an international edition textbook? 

You can identify an international edition of a textbook by looking on the cover or the inside publication information. A sticker or copy labels the book as a “low price edition” or “international edition (abbreviated IE).” On a bookselling platform it is often noted if the book is an international edition. Check the notes and for any special logos indicating the edition. 

International Edition Textbooks

It is often easy to tell if a textbook is an international edition.

How do I know if buying an international edition textbook will work for my class? 

The easiest way to confirm that buying an international edition textbooks will work for your course requirement is to check the ISBN. Look at the required textbook ISBN on the syllabus and the ISBN of the international edition book. If they match, you should be good to go! 

If you are able, check the quality of the pages to see if the pages line up with those of the required text, this can give you additional peace of mind. Often online shops, especially Amazon, will allow for book previews so you can see what the US published edition looks like so you can compare. 

International Edition Textbook Comparison

International edition textbooks may have differences from their US printed counterparts.

If the ISBN does not match the required text, check with your professor to learn if the alternative edition will work for their class. Sometimes your professor may know if another edition (whether it is an international edition or an older/newer edition) will help you master the material of that course. 

What should you know about buying and selling international edition textbooks? 

Buying and selling international edition textbooks is safe and easy. Purchasing these editions can save you loads of money for your classes. Reselling them, as determined by the Supap Supreme Court case mentioned above, is legal. 

The good news is that you are safe to purchase an international edition textbook for your class. International edition textbooks are cheaper on the front end. Keeping an eye out for these editions can help you save hundreds every semester. 

If you enjoy reselling textbooks keep in mind that reselling international editions have received lots of criticism and resulted in serious court cases (read about Supap’s case HERE) in the past. However, in the result of the Supap case you should be safe to resell the international edition without much attention. It’s also important for you to keep in mind that some students may be skeptical about buying international editions. It may be more challenging to sell the book if your price point isn’t right. The benefit of reselling international editions is that you likely purchased the book at a great rate and can resell at the same price or potentially with some profit margin. 

More vendors are offering the sale and buyback of international editions because of the savings they present for college students. It’s important to check that the vendor whom you decide to sell to accepts international edition textbooks. The list provided earlier in this article of places where you can find international edition textbooks is the same list we recommend when reselling these books. Of course, we most highly recommend listing your international edition textbook on BookScouter.com to maximize your profit potential. Several of the vendors listed above are part of our vendor community. You can review compare their price points at one time. Our praised price comparison tool will help you save and make the most money. There’s also an option to get free textbooks online.