Textbooks and Other Course Materials

Unlike in high school, in college you are responsible for acquiring your own course materials. You will not be given books nor other necessary supplies at the start of class. Although you may be tempted to wait until you arrive at Grinnell, getting course materials takes time and money, so prepare in advance! Here are some tips to get started.

What books?

There are at least four places to learn which books are required for your classes.

  • The schedule of courses — "search class schedules" — on the Registrar’s GrinnellShare page (login required) includes the books listed with each class.
  • The Pioneer Bookshop online store. The Bookshop works directly with the College’s faculty to ensure that the exact course materials are stocked for the start of classes each semester.
  • Your class roster page in PioneerWeb.
  • The syllabus for your class. The professor will let you know what books, course materials, and/or other supplies you are responsible for.

Before the semester starts, you should feel free to email professors (or stop by their office) with questions about books or course materials, including whether older or alternate editions of the book are ok, whether they prefer/require you to have a hard copy for class, and at what point in the semester a particular book will be used (if you want to spread out your book buying).

When to get books?

Other than your Tutorial class, in the fall semester you register for classes during New Student Orientation, so you will not know your book needs in advance. Therefore, it will be most convenient and expedient to purchase your course materials in your first semester at the Pioneer Bookshop. In future semesters you will register months in advance and can acquire your books before you arrive on campus, at the Pioneer Bookshop, or elsewhere.

Own or Rent? New or Used? Hard Copy or Digital?

Consider options to purchase (new or used) or rent (new or used), and consider a digital (e-book or PDF) copy. Each option has pros and cons.

Purchase. The benefit of purchasing your book is that you own it. Depending on where you purchase your book, there may be “buy back” options that allow you to sell back the book.

Rent. Renting a new or used book may be the cheaper option; however rental agreement, conditions, availability, prices, and length options vary depending on where you order your textbooks. (Depending on where you rent from, there may be a rating system for the copy, e.g., good, fair, excellent, bad). The Pioneer Bookshop rents new and used books when available. It requires your P-card along with a credit or debit card. You return rented books to the Pioneer Bookshop at the end of the semester.

New book. Although new books are likely the most expensive option, the benefit is that they are in the best condition and, if there is an online component to the book, the access code is included in the cost.

Used book. Used books are often cheaper than new but may have bent pages, writing, highlighting, and/or notes in them from a previous user. If the book has an online resource, you may have to purchase a separate code.

Different edition. Beware! Textbooks often have multiple editions. Older editions may contain much of the same information as the newest version. However, before you obtain an older edition, you should speak to your professor to make sure that the edition contains all the information needed for the course.

Digital. Some books are available electronically (such as e-books or pdfs). Some e-books offer features that will allow you to read/access them anywhere or may have built in study tools. The Pioneer Bookshop sells e-books via the Pioneer Bookshop webpage. Similar to e-books, some authors release pdf versions of their books. Although pdf versions are rare, they are sometimes available, and sometimes for free. A search on Google Scholar will typically determine if such a version is available. Note that while digital books are immediately available, convenient and may offer great features, a hard copy may be best for some students and some courses.

Alternate format for disability accommodation. If you have an official accommodation for an alternate format for your textbooks (e.g., Readable PDF, Kezi File, etc.), you are still required to have a copy of your textbook in your possession. That copy does not need to be a hard copy and rental textbooks qualify, so you have the same range of options available to you as other students. To arrange for your alternate formats or to request accommodations, you should contact Disability Resources and Assistive Technology, 641-269-3089. You can find more information on the Disability Resources GrinnellShare site.

Where to get books?

The Pioneer Bookshop, both in-store and online, offers different forms in which you can purchase your textbooks: new, used, rental (new and used), and digital (e-book). The Pioneer Bookshop is able to deliver your textbooks to the campus mailroom at no charge.

At the bookshop you can use your Pioneer One-Card Campus Cash. In addition, select students, including all students who are eligible for the Federal Pell Grants, may have access to a Textbook Advance program designed to facilitate the timely purchase of textbooks. Students may repay the advance over the course of the semester via their student account. Eligible students will be notified directly by the Office of Financial Aid.

If you need to return a book because you dropped a class or the professor decided not to use the book, the Pioneer Bookshop will provide you with immediate refund. If you are ordering your book elsewhere, use the library if you are wanting to borrow a book short term. Don't purchase one at the Pioneer Bookshop. If you decide to rent from the bookshop and lose your book you will never pay more than the purchase price for the book.

If you decide instead to purchase your book from another source that is your choice. Be sure to have the correct ISBN so you get the right book. In addition, if you order online, there will be a delay until you get the book and this can cause you to immediately get behind in your classes. If you are waiting for your book, there are two places on campus that may offer you short-term access to your class readings. First, Burling or Kistle Library may have this course material on reserve; check at the circulation desk. Second, the CRSSJ operates a lending library of some course materials; check with Financial Aid to see if you are eligible to borrow from them.

Other Course Materials

Many classes include readings consisting of single articles or book chapters. Most of these will be made available to you online, for free, through part of the College’s course management system called PioneerWeb. Your instructor will direct you to these readings. One or two copies of some required textbooks may be on 2-hour reserve at Burling Library or Kistle Science Library. While this may sound convenient, know that sharing a print reserve book with your classmates can limit your access to your class reading, especially during peak checkout times.

Some classes may require you to purchase additional materials, such as art supplies, a lab notebook, calculators, software, etc. Most additional course materials are available for purchase through the Pioneer Bookshop or as directed by your instructor.

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