I've noticed that - at least in the US - a book is published and sold at a non-trivial price to US residents. However, the author/publisher may also make an international version.

This version is subpar in my opinion. For example, they are cheaper, but also typically paperback, and I've seen in a science textbook things such as "this problem has intentionally been omitted for this edition" and "this [foot]note has been intentionally omitted for this edition."

Why are international editions stripped-down versions of their original counterparts? Why the need to omit certain problems and footnotes?

(I had asked this question first in Law Stack Exchange, but they deleted it and suggested I ask it here. So, any help on the legality of these reasonings would be appreciated).

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    Thanks @scaaahu . However, there's still the question of 1) why the omitted problems and 2) omitted footnotes?
    – magnetar
    Dec 9, 2016 at 5:18
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    Oh, I see. Although it's possible the reason is a legal issue, I don't see any reason to presume that it is.
    – ff524
    Dec 9, 2016 at 6:43
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    I believe they are stripped down for marketing purposes, because a single "Not for sale in US" label won't stop people in the US from buying intl. editions for half the price via online shops. Dec 9, 2016 at 8:46
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    The Indian edition of a particular book (on semiconductors) is available shipped from india to the UK for less than half the price of a second hand UK copy (both paperback). So maybe 1/4 the price of a new UK copy. The print and paper quality are worse but in this case the page numbering and layout are identical. So it's not a universal practice
    – Chris H
    Dec 9, 2016 at 9:08

4 Answers 4


In some cases, these international editions are sold at a fairly steep discount compared to their U.S. versions. This is intended to increase their accessibility to students in developing countries.

The intention behind omitting material that is in the "nice, but not essential" category, such as a particular problem etc. is to interfere with its utility in the U.S. and other "expensive" markets. Basically, it's to prevent the international versions from being marked up but still sold below the cost of the U.S. version.

As for the legality...the publisher owns the content. They can do pretty much whatever they please with it.

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    I bought some international editions of textbooks and I'm in Germany. It's not really limited to developing countries (I'd even suspect that they're still too expensive for most of those). I've only ever seen this as a US version and a rest-of-world version. Dec 9, 2016 at 8:10
  • @MadScientist All of the ones I have are expressly regional, and in my case, developing countries (I have a set of Calculus books expressly limited to India and Bangladesh, and have seen some for Africa). But this is admittedly a limited sample.
    – Fomite
    Dec 9, 2016 at 8:12
  • Yeah, there are probably more variants of this kind of thing. The one example I have lying around here just says "not for sale in the US". My impression that this is mostly about the US comes from the huge price difference, the US textbooks are around 2-3 times as expensive as the international editions or even the german ones. Dec 9, 2016 at 8:17
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    This is known as price differentiation (or price discrimination, but I don't like the pejorative connotations) in standard economic theory. The idea is the same as for student discounts in cinemas etc.: the producer (here: publisher) would like to sell his products to customers who may not be willing to pay full price, but are willing to pay a reduced price that still exceeds the variable production costs - and he needs a way to avoid freeloading. Dec 9, 2016 at 9:20
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    In some cases, the publisher has been granted license to include content -- like a figure used with permission. I wonder if sometimes the exclusion in the international edition might have to do with license not granted for such use. Dec 9, 2016 at 16:38

Copyright problems, generally. The publisher has the US rights, but not the international rights and doesn't want to pay for them.

I ran into this problem with the archival version of a journal on DVD. Many figures and pertinent photos/illustrations were missing, and I felt cheated. So I wrote to the publisher, and that's the answer I got back: they didn't have the rights to DVD publication for those missing elements.


Publishers belive that american students have an abundent supply of money on tap and want to get as much of that money as possible into their pockets. Furthermore they know that many US profs are lazy and will just set problems out of a book rather than setting their own practically forcing their students to buy the book.

But they also know that students in other countries (even other rich countries) have far less money available. They still want to make some money out of these students but they know they won't/can't pay the american price.

So they have a main edition targetted at americans and an international edition targetted at people from other countries with wildly different prices.

They will have distribution contracts in place that make it difficult/impossible for american retailers to legally carry copies of the international edition of the book but they can't do much to stop individual american students from importing it.

Removing small chunks of content means that the book is still useful in general but is problematic to use for a course built arround the main edition of the book, thus putting more pressure on american students to buy the main edition.


I have an international edition Giancoli Physics textbook, which omits some problems involving U.S. units (since international edition is metric), and introduces new problems that deal with unit conversions.

It also states that some problems were omitted due to them being meaningless (i.e. hard to visualize) for non-US resident.

It appears I confused this textbook with something else; I wasn't able to find a note stating this in Giancoli's textbook. Sorry :(

My international edition of Stewart Calculus is the same - although it doesn't expressly state it omitted some questions, it says that

10% of the [international edition] exercises are different from those in the [US] version

Another plausible reason is copyright: if a question references something that has a different copyright owner abroad than in US, publisher/author/editor may want to play safe and omit that part.

Yet another reason may be differences in pre-university curricula: some countries offer more comprehensive courses in natural sciences than USA (or so I was told).

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    "due to them being meaningless for non-US resident" - now I'm really curious what those are. Anything involving a trip from East coast to West coast or vice-versa might be "meaningless" for residents of many countries, maybe? ;) Dec 9, 2016 at 10:44
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    As far as I know most of the international engineering textbooks that I got didn't omit much compared to the NA counterpart. I think I ran into one thermo book that only had metric units, but I'm Canadian anyways so that was fine by me.
    – JMac
    Dec 9, 2016 at 11:36
  • @O.R.Mapper - what's so particular about a trip from West coast to East coast? :) Dec 9, 2016 at 11:54
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    IIRC, there are some problems about baseball in Stewart, where it's a lot easier to leave the problem out than to sufficiently explain the rules and mechanics of baseball to someone who's never seen it.
    – Max
    Dec 9, 2016 at 17:14
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    @alephzero, that's true, but on the other hand I think most people from non-baseball-playing countries (myself included) have as much understanding of baseball as Americans have of cricket. Just because we can watch it, doesn't mean we do (I have personally never seen baseball on TV).
    – Max
    Dec 10, 2016 at 6:52

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