Using Previous Editions of Class Textbooks

What are the implications of using an edition of a textbook other than that recommended for a college level course?

Specifically: Using the 11th 12th or 13th edition of Smith and Roberson’s Business Law where the recommended text is the 14th edition.

Considering this is a law text, I can imagine a lot changing from year to year, however, concepts like Stare Decisis and the elements of a tort are not likely to be any different.

My main concern would be with offering citations or discussing relevant passages. I’d really hate to refer to a certain page in discussing comparative negligence and find that the newer edition discusses Marital Property Law on that page.

With this text, the price difference (depending on condition etc.) is between fifty and a hundred dollars. (I could easily find listings for over $200.00 and for less than $20.00.) I know that some would simply scoff at the idea of even asking the question and ridicule me for not wanting to cough up the extra money. Please keep such considerations to yourself.

The question is, what are the implications of using an edition of a textbook other than that recommended for a college level course?

My experience is with science classes, which may be different. Usually the biggest difficulty in using old editions is following along with the assigned reading and problem sets. If the prof assigns “chapter 12” in the newest edition, it’s up to you to find out where that material is in the old edition. I.e., most of that that information was in chapter 11, but a few subsections were rearranged and can be found in part of chapters 6 and 18. Your concerns about page numbers changing are certainly true. And problem sets will always change between editions, so if the prof assigns homework from the textbook you pretty much have to get the most recent edition.

Sometimes you get lucky, and the professor is willing to accommodate your use of an older edition. If she hasn’t changed the course that much, all that means for her is to make copies of the handouts she made two years ago when the previous edition was current. I had a chem professor who did that, allowing me to use two editions back, which I could buy for less than $10 including shipping.

It can work great, but it does depend on the type of textbook. As noted, things with problem sets are often a problem. Where I have used it in the sciences with success, the main changes were in the really up-to-date chapters at the end, which we typically never got to. It’s not uncommon for the professor to have developed the lesson plan based on the older edition and completely ignore any new material, anyway. I would check with the professor, or at least look at a syllabus, and ideally take a look at both editions at the college bookstore/ library before deciding to go with an older version.

I did that few times. The example that stick out in memory is for an English class. Instead of buying the 13 books I would need, I went to the library and found them. I was never on the same page as everyone else. It didn’t really bother me, but when someone was talking about a certain page, I had to figure out where it was for me.

This would not have worked for my accounting class, because we had to do the questions at the end of the chapters, and I feel it is likely that some of the questions would change between editions.

I can’t remember if I did this for my business law class. It would have been okay in my situation, because there was no assigned homework form the book. It was all reading. The grade was based on the mid-term and the final. For other professors it might be different, they might assign questions for cases from the book.

Depends on the book and topic, but tests and other assignments are going to be graded on the basis of the assigned edition. Ask your professor.

No, but as you note, one thing you will have to be careful of with law texts/casebooks is that the law can change between editions. Not in any earth-shattering way (most of the time), but gradually. Principles and concepts are shaped and further defined through cases that have been decided between time of publication of the the last edition and the time of publication of the current edition. Changes in the law can be subtle but very important.

I doubt very much if stare decisis or the elements of a tort have changed at all, but you’re dealing with business law–it is entirely possible that between editions, new statutory changes have been passed by legislatures and/or cases have affected business law in some way. You wouldn’t want to cite something from your old textbook only to find that it’s wrong, as a more recent case has overturned the one from the book on which you are relying.

That all said, I’d say that you could use an older edition in your study of business law, but you’d have to do some extra work researching the statutes and noting up the cases (“shepardizing” is I think what it’s called in the US) so that you have the most current law possible.

I found with one textbook (Accounting, IIRC) that especially the problem sets changed. Not horribly - they may add and delete problems, so problems 1,2,3 of the new may be 2,4, and not there in the old book.

If you really need to get one - set up your camera on a stand, press the book under glass, and take a picture of each page. Print them on a laser, they sould be quite readable.

Years ago, I got a library book that we needed 2 chapters out, for a course. It was out of print anyway; but making a copy of 80 pages, (2 at a time) for $2.00 had to be the best bargain in that whole year. Even back then, they had the stacks books marked with the alarm tags so you couldn’t take them out of the building with their 2-hour check-out, and the xeroxes were 25 cents a sheet; nowadays they watch them like a hawk to prevent copyright violations.

If you know someone with a copier, you could do most of the book for a fraction of the purchase price. The newer ones even hav the option of creating a PDF from a series of scans. To quote Nixon, “but this would be wrong”, but sadly this is where when the retail price diverges from real-world value then entrepreneurs will fill the void regardless. Think MP3’s.

None of my professors have had any problem with old or international edition books. Just make some friends if your instructor will be assigning problems out of the book - in my experience this is less common in business law type courses.