One of the most frequently asked questions we hear is: "I have an older version of one of the LSAT Bibles—do I need to buy the current edition?" The easiest answer for us to give would be, "Yes, you do!" but we are cognizant that these books are expensive, and so we try to give tailored answers for each student. In order to give you the information to help you make your own decision, let me first give you an overview of how the update process works, and then in Part II I'll talk a bit about each individual book.
When we first started publishing the LSAT Bibles (a decade and a half ago!) the original book covers did not have medallions that indicated the year. And even when we significantly revised the books, we simply noted it was the second or third edition, and that was on the copyright in relatively small print. This system seemed to work for a while, so why did we start putting the year notification on the covers in 2013? There were several reasons, but the most important was to eliminate confusion among buyers. For example, the very first edition of the LSAT Logic Games Bible was introduced in 2001 and was 232 pages in length. Of course, as we worked through each print run (which were often very small), I would then make changes, updates, and revisions. Some of these were minor, such as improving an explanation, and some of these were more substantial, such as introducing new concepts or questions. But the book went out under the same cover and edition. When I did a really significant update, such as adding almost 200 pages to the LGB in 2008, then we'd launch it as a "new edition" in our advertising, but the cover stayed basically the same. The problem was, book buyers weren't really watching the edition numbers, and this was especially true in the resale market on sites such as eBay and Craigslist. People were selling LSAT Bibles that were 6 or 7 years old and hundreds of pages shorter, and buyers thought they were getting the current book. On our LSAT Forum, we had students asking questions from books without realizing they had an ancient edition, and it was depressing for me to have to tell them that I had added hundreds of pages of material to the book, and often that included improvements to the very explanations they were asking about. The students were none too happy about it either, because they hadn't realized they were buying an old book! It was clear that our lack of identification of the current edition on the book covers was making things more difficult for everyone, and hurting students by leaving some people using old books (Note: nothing in those older editions was incorrect, it was just that I had added so much new material that it was like buying a car only to discover that you'd bought the older, slower version and that there was a much faster and sleeker model out on the showroom floor! Both cars still got you there, but on a test like the LSAT, you typically want the model that gets you there the quickest).
As an example, here's a question from our LSAT Forum in which the writer asks about diagramming for the new two-page Logic Games format (which isn't new anymore, but it was back when this student asked me about it). In my answer, I have to break the news to them that the old edition they purchased is out of date, and that the newer editions of the book now contain the answer to the exact question they are asking about. Side note: I very carefully track the questions people ask about the books, and then with each reprint I add information that helps address the questions. In this way, the books have evolved to make sure that the most commonly-asked questions are continually addressed, and this really helps students with the newer books since they don't have to stop and wonder about certain questions.
Once we added the cover medallions for the years in 2013, the problem was eliminated, and thankfully, the really old versions more or less went out of circulation. However, in its place a different problem arose, namely from students who had acquired editions from a year or two ago who were wondering if they needed to buy the most recent edition. We try to be as specific as possible, and while we generally prefer that students use the newest editions since they are the most up-to-date and current, we are aware that the books are expensive and so we don't want to just make a blanket recommendation when an edition from a year or two ago might work just fine. So let's talk about the updating process and how that affects each book.
Every year now, we release a new edition, and every single time we make changes. The year medallions aren't just a marketing ploy—I use the yearly reprinting as an opportunity to add more info to the book, and to add information based on the new LSATs that have been administered in the past year. In other words, the new editions are simply more current than the older editions. While those many small changes do add up, it depends on the book and the year as to whether it's enough to justify buying a new edition when you already have an older edition. However, in other cases, I make major alterations to the book and its contents, sometimes adding whole new sections, sometimes dropping sections, and sometimes even changing the methods advocated within. I do this to keep the books in tune with the modern LSAT and the changes made by LSAC (the LSAT is not static; I think of it more as a living thing, with subtle changes and emphases over time). So, while in some instances it's fine to use last year's edition, in other cases it is not. In my next post, I'll take a look at each book individually, and summarize some of the changes over the years.
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