International editions

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It is hard to find a sharper illustration of the theory of third degree price discrimination than the case of college textbooks. In India, officially sanctioned "international editions" of U.S. textbooks are sold at retail prices of about $8 a copy, while the retail price in the U.S. is about $165. The Indian editions are printed on non-glossy paper, and lack four-color printing and hard covers. The text is very readable, and page-for-page identical to the North American editions. They are bound with a sturdy paperback cover.

A simple Google search finds international editions of most major economics texts on E-bay. They are typically shipped from within the U.S.A. Prices, including shipping, range from $25 to $60. Although publishers attempt to discourage reselling of international editions, the practice seems to be entirely legal. An interesting discussion of the relevant laws is found at

Most bookstores will not buy back used copies of international editions. That is a disadvantage in all but the last year of an edition, when bookstores will not buy back used copies of the domestic edition, either.

In the second year of an edition, a student may be able to buy a used text at 75% of the new price and resell it at 50%. If so, the net cost of owning a used copy of a $160 textbook for a year is only $40. A student who buys an international edition for $40 gets a slightly lower quality book, but can keep it for reference.