This is a subject that seldom a book reviewer will write about. While most of the contemporary book reviewers generally busy themselves checking the cover, blurb and grammar in a book, the issue that I am raising today is highly different, very important and also something that requires an understanding that can only come once you go through 500 books, at least, varying in genres and differing in publication histories. Well, naturally, I have done the same and went beyond as well. You can take my suggestions into consideration, without any compulsion to follow, when you buy your academic book next time.
If you are looking to get some genuine, reliable and authentic collections of poetry with text that you can rely upon for your academic ‘correctness’ as well as various perspectives, contemporary criticism as well as contextual criticism from the time of production itself, historical perspectives and facts, you need to get Norton Critical Editions. Norton Critical Editions come with the reliable text, notes, interpretations that you can trust as well as various other inputs that will enhance your academic pursuit of knowledge about the text you are interested in. However, if you are looking for more poetry with negligible variations in text and no interpretation or critical notes, you can go for Wordsworth Classic Editions, cheaper than Norton as well as accommodating more poems. Other publishers, especially Penguin, will be either too costly or too little reliable or both of them. So, if you are looking to get poetry collections for your academic needs, you must go either for Norton Critical Editions or Wordsworth Classic Editions. Just a tip – you should compare the editions before buying. 🙂
For those who are university students and need to study novels, rather than reading them for pleasure, they need authentic text, reliable notes and criticism with various perspectives. Here, as usual, Norton Edition comes handly but with a price that can go father than your expected budget, at times. Norton Critical Editions charge for original and authentic text as well as the notes (because they buy rights from reliable or original sources). They can be helpful but come with a price tag. Wordsworth Classic Editions might be a little cheaper and yet come with authentic texts but not with notes. Maple classics (Indian publisher) might come with text that you can read but not rely entirely upon – and these books come at very little cost. Penguin Classics, yet again, come with too much cost and just the text with an introduction that might be a novella in itself, if published separately. For the price of Penguin or a little more than that, in some cases, you can a lot more if you buy the Norton Edition of the same novel. So, pick wisely.
In terms of alternatives, there always are too many if we take a little time to study the book market. In the field of academic publishing, there are publishers like Worldview Classics, Atlantic Publishers and also Harper Collins (only at times). These publishers also provide their quality editions, enhanced with notes as well (not always). If you are buying from a bookshop, these comparisons might come to be very useful for you. However, if you are buying online, you don’t get the luxury to look within and you might have to rely on your past experiences with these publishers.
For non-fiction, such as literary theory, sociology, psychology and so on… you might easily rely (with exceptions and otherwise cases as well) on Tata-McGraw Hills coalition. Publishers like Pearson, Wiley, Penguin, Oxford and Cambridge Press as well as publications by Indian Universities themselves are also reliable in most of the cases. Do keep in mind that if you are learning in Indian universities and plan to remain in India after your studies for a job in the education sector, you should rather story Indian books as first priority and keep the texts by foreign authors on the second position on your priority list. I am not trying to establish a hierarchy or an order. I am just telling from my personal experience as well as the advantages and disadvantages calculations – based on my personal conversations with academicians and experts in various fields related to education in India.
I hope this article will give you something about how to choose the best editions of books for your study. All the best!
By Amit for Indian Book Critics