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Sunday, August 8, 2010

College Textbook Prices and Big Pharma: International Editions

A while back, I was discussing the scary overpriced textbook trade and compared the industry to Big Pharma. An academic economist made the same point in the New York Times. I was so happy; I've never even taken Econ101.

Here is the comparison made yet again by an on-line seller of textbooks. Just as prescription drugs are cheaper out of the USA, so too college textbooks. You realize, of course, that these are the same books. Oh--the difference is that the International ones are marked International. Based on the comments, I would say that the textbook publishers tried to keep the international books from being sold in the US, just as Big Pharma lobbies to keep international prescription drugs out of the consumer's hands.

# Q: What's an International Edition Textbook?
A: An International Edition Textbook is simply the international counterpart to a US Edition. Most international editions have slightly different covers and many have different ISBNs on the outside covers (although some have the same ISBN as the US edition on the inside). These books were originally created to be sold in different regions, such as England. International edition textbooks have the same pagination and contents as the US Edition. All units and problem sets are guaranteed to be the same, or your money back!
# Q: Why are International Edition Textbooks so much cheaper?
A: Just like prescription medicine, textbooks are much cheaper overseas than in the US. gets a hold of these books and passes the savings on to you!
# Q: Wait a minute, is it legal to buy International Edition Textbooks?
A: Yes! Textbook publishers would love to have people think otherwise, but courts have time and again asserted your right to purchase international editions. Still unsure? The United States Supreme Court recently ruled on this issue. You can find a New York Times article about their decision here
# Q: Why do you sell International Edition Textbooks?
A: Disgruntlement over textbook costs has been growing in the United States as prices have risen. As veterans of the textbook industry, we've seen a massive increase in demand for both used textbooks and especially international edition textbooks by students who are tired of paying $95.00 for an economics book or $140.00 for a chemistry book. They're happier buying the same book for $50.00 in an international edition.
# Q: Do you buyback International Edition Textbooks?
Yes! Just visit our buyback page at the end of your quarter or semester, type in the ISBN of your book and select the international edition copy. We buyback all types of books everyday, and we even pay for your shipping!
# Q: What about CD-ROM's and online access codes? Do International Editions come with these?
A: In most cases, yes. In rare cases, the CD may not be included. If the CD is not included with the book, this will be made clear on the product detail page. If you are sure you're going to need the CD-ROM to complete your class and want to make sure the book includes it, drop us an email at to make sure. Most professors do not require these materials, since many used books do not come with them.
# Q: This all sounds great, but I'm still not sure because I've never bought an International Edition Textbook before.
No problem, we've prepared some side by side comparisons of the US editions and International Editions. Check them out below!

Note that Amnazon and do not allow international editions to be sold on the sites. Based on the above info, I would guess that the online computer codes may be an issue if your scholar wants to buy an international edition.

I myself have no experience with these. Frugal Son only had to buy one textbook during his year in France. It cost around $14.00.


metscan said...

Having read the questions and answers, it sounds all right to me. The buyback sounded even more ok.

Funny about Money said...

This fall I'm signed up for a workshop on online substitutes for textbooks. Hope eventually we can persuade our department that we shouldn't be requiring these rip-offs for freshman comp at all.

Really, there's nothing in the current 101 or 102 textbooks that isn't available online. Alternatively, having students buy the MLA handbook and then actually teaching them (remember...with lectures? actually share your knowledge with them??) the rest of the content would provide them with everything they need.

Frugal Scholar said...

@metscan--Yes, we will look into this further.

@Funny--That's a good idea. It can become a selling point for your university as well. I am amazed by how many students chose our school BECAUSE of the rental system.

The new comp textbooks are so larded with material that they've become hard to manage. I can hardly navigate them and I'm sure students don't really use them. Same with Intro to Lit books.

Anonymous said...

My international students often come in with these, buying them overseas during vacation. They're shaped a bit differently and they're always soft-cover but in general they're the same book. It's neat that you can get them without leaving the country to do so.

Frugal Scholar said...

@nicoleandmaggie--Thanks for the example. Maybe those students should bring back some copies and sell to their American classmates. Win-Win.

Books said...

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