If you are a book collector looking for a first edition or a student looking for the latest copy of a textbook, being able to find out which edition of a book you have is of great importance. Although most publishers will provide the information for you, it may be difficult to find. By examining the book carefully, you will be able to tell which edition of a book you own.
Sometimes the publisher clearly states which edition of the book it is at the bottom of the copyright page or in the imprint. Search for the phrase “first edition” followed by the year. If you’re lucky, the imprint will state the year each issue was published. If the publisher of the book has changed since it was first published, the issue count is reset. This means that technically there could be two or more first editions of the same book. A “true” first edition of a book is the first time the text has appeared in the first printed edition of the book.
Find the phrase “Copyright” at the top of the page. If the copyright year and publication year are the same, you most likely have the first edition of the book. If they are different, you know you have a later edition of the book. In the American legal area, copyright does not arise automatically, as it does in Germany. Therefore the copyright date may be different from the publication date of the first edition – even though there were no previous editions. If changes have been made to the text of the book, several years may appear below the copyright date. Always use the most recent date as the basis for your assessment.
The row of numbers at the bottom of the page doesn’t necessarily identify the edition, but it tells you how many times a book has been printed. If there is still a 1 in the series of numbers, it is the first printing of the book by that publisher. If more runs are printed, the lowest number in the row determines which print you have. The numbers could be in a sequence of numbers or in an unrecognizable order. Always look for the lowest number. Sometimes the year of printing is also included in the line, indicated by the last two digits of the year. For example, the row of numbers could read 1 2 3 4 5 00 99 98 97 96. This book would then be its first edition in 1996.
Normally, the edition of a book changes only when something in the book’s content has changed. If a line has been added or removed from the dust jacket, or a new section has been added, this could indicate that it is an updated edition. Some websites list the differences between editions. For non-fiction books, newer editions may have new information or studies added to keep the content current and clear.
Book club editions are books specifically released for book societies with monthly book recommendations or similar arrangements. Instead of a price, the dust jacket will say “Book Club Edition” or a five-digit code for identification. In book club editions, the area where a barcode is usually placed could also be blank.
The International Standard Book Number, or ISBN, is a unique 10- or 13-digit number that identifies an edition or revision of a book. While a special edition book is usually listed on the cover or copyright page, you can find the ISBN above the barcode. Search the Internet for the ISBN or compare it to the ones listed on the copyright page. A book can have multiple ISBN numbers, depending on whether it was published in hardcover, paperback, or special edition.