Most of the textbooks I used during my undergraduate studies (outside north America) are International editions, so what is the difference between a national and an international edition of a book?

For example, I have a book that says

XYZ published this special edition for the benefit of students outside the United States and Canada.

and they don't mention why this international edition is special or what is the benefit!

  • There is a difference in the number of the pages. For example, the book "Lippincott Illustrated Reviews: Pharmacology" has to editions (international and regular) but while the regular has 680 pages, the international edition has 570 pages, it says 110 pages less than the regular one, or Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 12:28
  • Even non-textbooks often have localized editions..... Color -> colour and program -> programme and so on. And 3.1415 -> 3,1415. And miles converted to kilometers, Fahrenheit converted to Centigrade.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Nov 24, 2017 at 13:17

3 Answers 3


International editions are cheaper

They are sold cheaper, in English speaking countries (or countries with education in English) outside North America: India, China, etc. The content is equal to that of US/North American versions.

There are two reasons why they are cheaper:

  1. because they are printed in cheaper version: paperback instead of hardcover, sometimes black and white

  2. because the publisher knows he cannot sell them at their US price anyway, so they are willing to sell them at the price people will buy them (better to sell them cheaply than not at all)


There was also a case about import of international edition textbooks in the US supreme court last year (http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/03/thai-student-protected-by-first-sale-supreme-court-rules/).

  • 3
    so why don't they offer both choices, cheap quality for cheap price and good quality for high price, and I as a customer will decide if I can afford the former or the latter?! Also why can't a North American student buy the book for a lower price (the books have a banner that says "Not for sale in USA or Canada")
    – The Hiary
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 12:26
  • 4
    @TheHiary: It's simple economics... if you know you can get away with selling at a higher price in a particular area (knowing that people would/must buy it), why would you sell it for cheaper? Often times, publishers have contracts that allow them to sell the higher price books in north america because they can make a lot of money doing so.
    – Paul
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 13:16
  • 1
    @TheHiary: There are ways to obtain used versions of the international edition books in north america (e.g. abebooks.com). However, the sellers often mark up the selling price from the original (brand new) international edition price, knowing that it would still turn out cheaper for a north american buyer and the seller can still make a profit on it.
    – Paul
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 13:18
  • 2
    @TheHiary: They're not "forced" per se... but many students who buy international editions do so because the standard editions are just too expensive. If a student can afford the more expensive edition, they can certainly make a special order. It's just not sufficiently in demand to warrant selling the standard edition, in bulk, to certain countries.
    – Paul
    Commented Nov 23, 2013 at 13:21
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    The contents may be equivalent but they are not necessarily equal. I recently ran across a textbook in which the international edition had different numerical values in all the exercises. This was obviously done intentionally so that a US student could not use the international edition. Commented Sep 19, 2016 at 21:49

Also, some international versions are only to be used outside of the US. Due to them giving a software license for a certain region. (During my Physics / Maths courses, I had to use the international edition so the license was valid in EU universities.)

It can be for a variety of reasons, I think Jim stated the most important ones.


Sometimes they have been intentionally made incompatible.

I recently came across a textbook whose "international version", though having the same edition number, had different numerical values in all the homework problems! There is no possible pedagogical reason for doing this. It was clearly just intended to make it impossible for a North American student to use the (cheaper) international version, if they are assigned homework problems from the text.

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