Textbooks and Other Course Materials

Textbooks and Other Course Materials

Unlike in secondary/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 wait until you arrive at Grinnell, getting course materials takes time and money, so prepare in advance.

Which books will I need?

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

  • The schedule of courses — “Search Class Schedules” — under the “Important Links” on the Registrar’s GrinnellShare page (login required) includes the books listed with each class.
  • The Pioneer Bookshop (go to “Textbooks”). 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. You can purchase in person, or you can order from the website and pick up the books or have them delivered to the campus mailroom.
  • 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 term starts, you should feel free to email professors (or go to their office hours) 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?

For fall semester you will get your books right as you start classes. Other than your Tutorial class, you will not know your book needs much in advance because you register for the rest of your classes during New Student Orientation. Therefore, it will be most convenient and expedient to purchase your course materials at the Pioneer Bookshop. In future terms, you will register well 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.


The benefit of purchasing your book is that you own it and make your own annotations in it. In addition, at the end of each semester the Pioneer Bookshop will buy back used books in person or online.


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. You are allowed to annotate inside rental books acquired through Pioneer Bookshop. To rent textbooks, you need your Pioneer One-Card (commonly called 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. The Pioneer Bookshop sells only the editions your professors assign.


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.

Your professor may have pre-arranged to have your required course material put into PioneerWeb (also called “P-Web”) so you receive a “Day-One Access Digital Book.” In this situation, professors, the bookstore and publishers have already negotiated the best price. You will have access to your book(s) prior to the first day of classes and will not pay for them until after the add/drop deadline. After the add/drop deadline, your student account will be automatically billed. If you choose to not use the assigned Day-One Access book, you must perform an “Opt Out” process, or email the Pioneer Bookshop, so that your student account is not billed. You will receive an email with instructions a week before the start of the semester.

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 & how to pay?

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). If requested, the Pioneer Bookshop will deliver your textbooks to the campus mailroom at no charge.

At the bookshop you can use your Pioneer One-Card Campus Cash (commonly known as your P-card) and/or the Textbook Advance program. Textbook Advance is designed to help you manage your cash flow at the start of the semester when you have a lot of costs. You don’t have to put off buying your textbooks, and you can pay over time, without fees, via your student account. You already have a Textbook Advance account, so no advance set up is required.

If you drop a class or your professor decides not to use the book, you can receive a refund for any books you purchased at the Pioneer Bookshop. You will need your receipt to do this, and, if it is a new book, it must be unmarked to receive a refund.

Besides the Pioneer Bookshop, you should also check the Library Catalog. The Library makes available hundreds of thousands of electronic and print books; you may find that one or more of them is a text for the courses you are taking.

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 receive the print book and this can cause you to immediately get behind in your classes.

Finally, the Center for Religion, Spirituality, and Social Justice (CRSSJ) operates a low-income lending library (LILL) of some print course materials; check with Financial Aid to see if you are eligible to borrow from the CRSSJ.

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 (or “P-web”). Your instructor will direct you to these readings.

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.

Academic Skills and Support >>

We use cookies to enable essential services and functionality on our site, enhance your user experience, provide better service through personalized content, collect data on how visitors interact with our site, and enable advertising services.

To accept the use of cookies and continue on to the site, click "I Agree." For more information about our use of cookies and how to opt out, please refer to our website privacy policy.