I recently purchased this book from a vendor that is not Amazon, but who listed the same image:
...but this was not quite the same as the book I received, which had a different cover and omitted the "New Afterword by the Author." The book I received has the cover shown in the right side ("sand dune" image) for this Google Books listing, that has what I'll call the "stars and frog" cover as the thumbnail on the left:
It seems that the "sand dune" cover goes with a first edition and the "stars and frog" cover goes with a later edition (containing at least a "New Afterword by the Author"). I inquired with the seller about the difference between editions, and the seller wrote:
"We stock all of our books by the ISBN number... that book we sent you matched the ISBN we received in your order... Please note that you cannot always count on listing images to be accurate."
Looking more closely, the Amazon listing shows the "stars and frog" picture with the term "1st Edition" to the right of the title, and the ISBN-10 below the image matches the ISBN printed on the back of the book with the "sand dune" cover:
I didn't buy this book through Amazon, but instead on a different website where I'm purchasing directly from the seller rather than through a marketplace. The other seller also showed the "stars and frog [and New Afterword]" image on the product listing. However, exactly where I bought it seems irrelevant to this question. If I were to buy this from or through Amazon, new or used, it seems I could very easily have the same experience. Is there any way to know just what book I'd be getting when I buy online?
I've also experienced this in the past, getting International Edition textbooks with the same ISBN instead of US editions. (Some publishers slightly change the content in international editions, such as altering the numbers in example problems. Along with the durability and printing material, these may not be major differences, but the differences sometimes matter.)
Note: I know that most of the text of the book is the same, and that the differences between the two may not be that significant. However, there are situations where the difference might matter (e.g. where the key text to be quoted/verified/etc. is in that Afterword, or, as an especially relevant situation around Christmas, if it's a gift where presentation matters for someone who's into the study of complexity with particular interests in stars, frogs, and cities but who hates the desert, etc.). This question is about if there is a way to know which version of a book one is buying without regard to why a purchaser might care.