Buying college textbooks for the first time is both exciting and daunting. Our Admissions Office has worked with our University Store on answers to the questions we hear most often from new students. Read on to learn how to search for and purchase your required textbooks. The dates listed here are specific to the fall 2017 semester.  

When are books available?
Books are available to purchase through the University store online August 7 and will be available in person August 14. Books being available to purchase doesn't mean the books for all courses are posted. Some instructors may still need to post book requirements and others might not be requiring books, but haven’t officially told the store that yet. You can call the store if you're unsure whether or not a class will require a book or if you can't find your class listed. Their number is 443-334-2242. Please read and follow the instructions below carefully before calling.

How do I know what books I need?
Go to and click on “Textbooks” and then “Purchase Textbooks.” Choose “Fall 2017” as your term. Search for books using your course department heading, course number and section number (see below for a screenshot of this part). For the course PHIL101-01, PHIL is the department (Philosophy), 101 is the course number, and 01 is the section number (a section of a course is a particular meeting time assigned to a particular professor). With those three pieces of information you can find your books. After choosing your department, course number, and section number, click “add selection” and the course will be added to your course list at the bottom of the page. You can repeat the process to add as many courses as you want.

The screenshot above shows you have added section 01 of PHIL101, which is being taught by Professor Hooke to your course list.

Some courses require the same book(s) regardless of the section/professor. For courses like that, you won’t have to choose your section. You’ll simply see “ALL” listed under section as shown in the screenshot below.

The screenshot above shows what appears when students in all sections of a course will use the same book(s). For CM101, it doesn’t matter what section of the course you’re in because all sections of this course require the same book.

After you’ve selected the course or courses for which you want to view book requirements, click the blue “Get Course Materials” button on the bottom left (pictured in the screenshot above). That link will take you to a new page with the required (and sometimes recommended) books for each course on your list (see screenshot below).

The screenshot above shows the required book for all sections of CM101.

What if my books aren’t listed?
First, make sure you are searching properly – you need to choose “Fall 2017” as your term and look up courses by the department heading. You shouldn’t expect to see the title of the course – only the department, course number, and sections. So, you won’t see “Public Speaking,” you’ll see “CM 101.” If all sections of the course are using the same book, you’ll see the word “ALL” instead of the individual sections listed.

If you are searching appropriately and don’t see your course or section listed yet, then know that not all professors have posted books yet. Don’t panic. Some professors will hand out materials in class and others will have books required, but won’t tell you about those until the first day of class when you receive the syllabus. It is completely normal for this to happen. If the information isn’t there for you then it isn’t there for anyone else in your class, either, so you won’t be at a disadvantage academically. You can keep looking back between now and the start of classes to see if books are posted for your class.

Lots of other sections of my class are listed, but not mine. Can I just buy the books for another section?
NO! Each section of a course is its own class with its own professor and each professor makes their own decision about what books to use. Buying the books listed for another section of the course is not a good idea because chances are you’ll end up not needing any or all of them for your section. If your section isn’t listed yet just follow the advice in the previous answer and keep checking back.

Where are books physically located?
If you want to come to campus to buy books in person, your books are at Greenspring. The Owings Mills store only stocks graduate level books - you're an undergraduate. Hours for the store are listed at Please check the operating hours before coming to campus.

Books are at Greenspring?!? That's not convenient; I'm going to live at Owings Mills!
If you order your books online you can choose whether you want to pick them up at Greenspring or Owings Mills. Choose Owings Mills and they will be packed up and waiting for you in the Owings Mills store when you move-in. You must order by August 24 (new student move-in day) at noon to take advantage of this very convenient and free service. Keep in mind that the store needs 48 hours to pack your order and have it ready, so if you want your books available to pick-up at Owings Mills on move-in day you’ll need to order at least two days prior.

When you create an account on the store site you’ll be asked for a shipping address. Use your home address as your shipping address for your account – you’ll be able to choose Owings Mills pick-up as your delivery method when you check-out. The Stevenson store doesn’t actually ship books anyway, but the online ordering system they use requires a shipping address to create an account. Just an idiosyncrasy of the website.

If I have extra money on my account from excess financial aid, can I use it for books?
Yes, this is called a "book voucher." You have a book voucher if a combination of grants, loans, or scholarships causes a surplus on your account. The money will be available on your ID (SUOne) card from two weeks before (August 14) until two weeks after the semester starts (September 11). You take your ID card to the Greenspring store and they will swipe it to buy your books. If you order online you must use a credit card, but you can have that credit card refunded and have your ID card swiped to use book voucher funds if you have them when you arrive to pick up your books. Student Accounts can tell you if you have book voucher funds - call them at 443-334-3500. Any portion of your book voucher funds that are remaining after the first two weeks of the semester will be given back to you in a refund check around the mid-point of the semester.

Can I rent books?
Yes, as long as you have the right book(s) for the class the professor won't care if it is a rental. is a popular textbook rental site. Not all books will be available, but it is worth checking if rental is something you’re interested in.

Can I rent books through the Stevenson Store?
The Stevenson Store has rental available for some books. You have to call the store at 443-334-2242 or visit in-person to the Greenspring location after Monday, August 14 to see if this is an option for a book you need. If you purchase a book and then find out that you can rent it, you can take your original receipt to the Greenspring store. They will have some paperwork about the rental policies for you (the student) to sign and then they will refund the difference between the purchase price and the rental price.

Can I purchase used books through the Stevenson Store?
Yes, if they are available. When you search for your books you’ll see a price listed to purchase the book new. If the store has used copies available, you’ll see the option and price for used as well. You can choose used if that’s what you prefer and it is available. Used books are not always available. In some cases that’s because the professor is requiring a new edition of the book for which there are no used versions available anywhere and in some cases that’s because the store has sold out of their supply of used copies.

Does the Stevenson store sell e-books or digital textbooks and do professors care whether you use an e-book or a printed book?
The Stevenson store does have some digital textbooks (also called e-books) available. If an e-book is available that will be noted as an option in the online store and you’ll get an access code with directions for downloading the book after you make the purchase. If you go to the store in person, e-book access codes will be located behind the counter. This information will be noted on the shelf tag for the course and you can just ask for the item at checkout. Some other digital materials will be in the form of a card and will be placed on the shelf adjacent to printed materials. Just like a gift card needs activated when you buy it, these cards will not be valid until checkout; an access code for the item will be printed on your receipt.

Professors want you to read the material they assign. They will not care if you use a physical book or e-book to complete your assignments. Just think about how you work best – is it important to you to have a physical book to highlight or to take notes in the margins? If so, an e-book isn’t for you.

Can I purchase books from an online retailer other than the Stevenson Store?
Yes. When you search for your books on the Stevenson site each book will have what’s called an “ISBN.” The ISBN is a unique number assigned each book that all book retailers use to identify that particular edition of that particular book. If you search for books on other websites make sure to get a book with the exact ISBN. Books of the same title can have different ISBNs because each edition could have different content. It is safest to go with the edition and ISBN your professor identified. If you purchase through the Stevenson Store you know you’re getting the correct book. If you don’t, you need to check the ISBN carefully. Most sites allow you to search by ISBN rather than title. If you can’t find the ISBN on another site it could be a book that the professor has custom-ordered that is only going to be available through our store.

Screenshot of book requirement page with notes to show where you can find the unique ISBN, which you can use to identify that book on other book sites, and the new/used pricing for the book if you purchase from Stevenson.

What other sites exist to purchase books?
There are many. In a quick poll, our OWLs mentioned using the following sites, in addition to the Stevenson Store:,,,,,,

What about access codes?
Access codes make book buying a little tricky. Access codes give you access to online content specific to the course. They can't be shared among students and they can't be used for more than a semester, so you have to have your own. The title of the book generally indicates if an access code or online account of some kind is necessary. Sometimes the title on the SU Store site won't say that there's an access code included with the book, but if you take the ISBN number (the unique identifying code for that book) and copy it into,, or any other bookselling site you'll see the full title and whether or not an access code or online account is included.

Do I have to buy the book new to get the access code?
YES! This might not be what you want to hear, but if you rent or buy a book used you won't get a working access code. The code might come with a rental or used book, but if it has been used previously by another student it won't work for you. You need to buy the book new to get an access code that will work for you. You’ll often see disclaimers on used books and book rental sites saying that access codes are not included and/or guaranteed to be included.

Do I really need the access code? Will the professor require me to use it?
The students I have spoken with all said that in their experience if the book comes with an access code or an account for "My 'fill in the blank' lab" (MyITLab, MyECONLab, etc.) the professor will expect you to use it and will probably ask you to sign into your account during the first week of class to start working on assignments. The professors have the option of choosing the same textbook without the access code, so if the version you're required to get includes it, they're going to require you use it.

Can I return books if I find out I don’t need them?
If you buy your books from the Stevenson store, they will take textbook returns for the first seven days of the semester with the receipt. If you have a new book that comes shrink-wrapped and you’re concerned you bought the wrong one, DO NOT rip off the shrink wrap if you think there’s any chance you’ll need to return the book. If you do you’ll risk being refunded for it as a used book rather than getting full purchase price back as a new book. If you drop a class you can return the book for the class to the store within one week of dropping the class. You have to have your receipt and your drop slip from the Registrar’s Office and you’ll get the used price back (even if the book was purchased new). If you first buy a book after the 7th day of class you have three days to be able to return it. You have to have your receipt and at that point in the semester all returns are given the used price back even if you purchased new.

Return policies from other retailers vary and you need to research those on your own. Stevenson is not responsible if you buy a book you don’t need and it cannot be returned to another retailer.


Did you read this far? Wow! You really care about books, are very thorough, and will probably do very well in college