When searching for George Orwell's 1984, different results appear where one can buy the book. Like on kindle, or at play store here and here.

Can someone help me understand as to

  • why all the options have ISBN numbers?
  • why there is difference in the page count?
  • the ones in play store seems to be from different publishers. Do the different publishers also have some extra contents added?
  • to what extend does the publishers have liberty with the book, well apart from the cover design?
  • how do I go about and choose which one should I get?
  • Am I missing something obvious that one should know for purchasing ebook?

2 Answers 2


Methods for estimating page count for ebooks depend on a variety of things and don't really indicate anything.

Different ebook distributors use different ISBNs. It used to be that print publishers would have a single ISBN. Nowadays, when you publish on a distributor's platform they will tend to assign an ISBN specific to the store.

Google Play stores tend to have the same store for everybody, but Amazon has stores for each region or country. I would expect that Google Play Books to have more editions -- especially for public domain titles.

With print editions, there are often different editions with different covers and prefaces and annotations. That is especially true with books for classrooms. Typically less developed countries may produce cheaper print editions and be priced accordingly. With ebooks, there are not as many different editions unless the work is public domain. It can sometimes be different to tell the difference among them.

You may not realize this, but 1984 is in the public domain in certain countries (but not the USA).

If you are unsure, the best thing to do is to check the main website for the author and see what editions that the author's site links to.

Finally about Orwell's 1984 and Amazon, I see that various Kindle editions cost from $2 to $2.99 (for a collected novels). Also, translations have different prices. If you live in a country where the novel is in the public domain, you may see more editions (and a greater variety of prices).

  • I think Orwell's work is in the public domain in Canada, because copyright lasts there only 50 years after the author's death. It should be everywhere in 17 months, on January first 2021. I disagree with your statement that less developed countries will produce lower quality print editions. I do have counter examples, and I would not think the quality of print editions increases with the economics growth in this world.
    – babou
    Aug 20, 2019 at 22:50
  • Babou, I hate to say it, but for works published before 1978 in USA, copyright duration is 95 years after publication.(In 1978, it became death + 70). So in USA it would go in public domain in 2044. copyright.cornell.edu/publicdomain In Canada,it's already in the public domain. Aug 21, 2019 at 2:54
  • Yes, you are right ... I had forgotten about those changes in 1998, and the messy state of US copyright, due to historical evolution combined with heavy corporate lobbying. But the rule is otherwise death+70 (or at least death+50) in most of the world, and that applies also to works originating from the USA, since local laws always apply (while usually following international agreements).
    – babou
    Aug 21, 2019 at 13:04

Usually, the ISBN number is supposed to change when the edition is modified. The modifications may be minor and not matter much to readers.

The publisher is not supposed to change the text, except for typos and such, though that could depend on contractual agreement in some countries. It may also happen that some parts of the text have different versions, all produced by the author. These issues become very complex, but matter only to scholars.

Are you missing something obvious? Well ...

You seem to be looking in various places for your ebook. Possibly you are not aware that these places are not equivalent. Ebooks come in a variety of formats, mostly epub, pdf and mobi. These have variants, but that is less important. Actually there are lots of formats, but you are very unlikely to encounter most of them.

The mobi format is used only by Amazon for the kindle, while nearly everyone else uses mostly epub (and sometimes PDF, though PDF is not too convenient for that purpose, because less adaptable).

Thus, when looking for ebooks, you have to know on what device you intend to use it. If you use a computer, you will find applications for reading any of the three formats. But if you intend to use an ebook reader, then you have to buy ebooks in a format accepted by your e-reader.

I personally prefer epub which is an open standard. In all things technical, I hate to be tied to a single provider, no matter how large and powerful.

Another issue you should investigate is DRM. DRM are software devices that control your use of books, whether you can have them on different devices, whether you can lend them or make copies. It has occasionally been used to erase books in the home of the owner (just to give you an idea of the potential of DRM). Actually, the book that was thus erased from its owners was precisely a specific edition of 1984.

I tend to avoid books that carry DRM, but it is too often the case that a given title is available as ebook only with DRM. However, there are cases where a book is available with DRM from one retailer, while another retailer will sell it DRM-free. Sometimes it is a matter of publisher, and the same retailer is selling two versions of the book, with DRM from one publisher, and without from another publisher.

Some form of DRM are somewhat innocuous. For example watermarks, are quasi invisible markers that identify you as the owner so as to be able to trace illicit copies. But it will not interfere otherwise with your use of the book.

Last point. If you want better precision about the book size, use word count rather than page count. You often get both.

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