A recent question asks about the difference between two versions of what many would consider a canonical textbook for multiple fields.

There is modest community consensus that questions regarding identifying canonical texts aren't a great fit for the site, but that question doesn't address asking about the differences between versions of canonical texts.

So my question for the community is: how do we feel about questions asking for the differences between versions of books?

Postscript: I expect tons of up votes for the obviously click bait title.

  • $\begingroup$ Personally, I don't understand why a topic must be started on the difference between two version when it can be found from an easy Google search. It cost me approximately 1 min to answer the question, time he spent on writing the question instead. As far as i know, a certain amount of research is still expected from a poster. $\endgroup$
    – nluigi
    Oct 16 '15 at 18:21
  • $\begingroup$ @nluigi I wrote my question in order to have also a suggestion from an engineer/engineering student with some experience about that. I know SE is not thought to get subjective answers, but I thought that a point of view would inevitably come out in the most objective answer too.<br> I confess I didn't know anything about the chat... I'm new here and the next time I'll certainly write my question in a more proper environment. $\endgroup$
    – Cybex
    Oct 16 '15 at 21:59

I am in favour of inserting canonical books comparisons inside questions, since they (both taken by themselves and compared to each other) are part of Engineering (the title of this site) and, moreover, founded and found it still now. Whithout canonical books there wouldn't have been any modern engineering.

An engineer/engineering student/engineering amateur is the best person able to give an objective evaluation of changes between editions, shedding light on virtues and vices in a technical way: he is not interested in selling to you a book, but in sharing his own experience with you.

Two tags called e.g. "books" and "books-editions" would be very useful.

One suggestion. I read the meta discussion about identifying canonical books and the issues raised by @GlenH7: we're provided with common sense and in these situations it should be used; it's obvious that a canonical books list doesn't exist and a "flow diagram" to identify a canonical book doesn't make any sense. There are books way more important than other, we don't need to have a punctual list.


I am against questions relating to the differences between versions of books for these reasons:

  • The publisher would be better placed to provide this information
  • It is unrealistic to expect someone to have gone through in detail and noted all the differences.
  • From my experience differences between versions are usually:

    1. re-numbering questions in text-books - If the question numbering were important (eg: for a course), then the required version would be specified already.
    2. correcting errors - in which case the most recent version would clearly be the best option as it presumably has fewer errors.
    3. some major new addition (electronic resources for example) - this would be clearly advertised by the publisher.
  • If what is really being asked is what version should they buy, this is clearly an opinion based question and there are better forums for this (Amazon book reviews for example).

Including book recommendations within an answer as suggested further reading would naturally be perfectly acceptable (perhaps should even be encouraged!). However, I would argue that questions asking for book recommendations or comparisons between books/versions are off-topic.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I think that these arguments might generally apply to modern textbooks, but for a book that has been revised 3 times in 55 years, and that is considered a standard-bearer for the industry, there are probably significant differences. I do agree that the question is relatively opinion-based though, and should be re-written to clarify what factors the asker is concerned with other than price. $\endgroup$
    – Ethan48
    Oct 17 '15 at 23:03

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