UC Bookstore

The University of Cincinnati's Bookstore on campus in Tangeman University Center on Monday, Sept. 10, 2018.

Local and on-campus bookstores are having trouble keeping prices low due to increased pressure from publishers and online retailers.

UC’s on-campus bookstore generally prices new textbooks at 75 percent of the publisher’s retail price. While many students prefer to rent or purchase used books to save cash, some professors require books with digital access codes, leaving students with no other choice than to buy new copies. Even with used books and rentals, some students are noticing higher prices at the UC bookstore than they find at other local or online bookstores.

“While I understand that the prices of new textbooks are largely set by publishers and are therefore out of control of the UC bookstore, the bookstore sets ridiculously high prices for used and rented textbooks compared to other sources,” said Ellen Haney, a first-year international business student.

Often, professors do not announce the required reading materials until days before a class begins. With limited availability at the UC bookstore, Haney sometimes finds herself on a tight deadline as she scrambles to find college textbooks from another source.

Ty Bonawitz is the operations manager of DuBois Bookstore, a small shop on Calhoun Street. Bookstores don’t get to regulate prices, but many students don’t realize that, Bonawitz said.

“A big misconception is that the bookstores go ahead and jack-up the prices, and that couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Bonawitz. “The publishers go ahead and set the prices for us … We order the books, they tell us what the cost is, we have very slim margins and we try to be as slim as possible on our margins.”

DuBois offers a textbook rental service as well. Bonawitz said the bookstore normally loses money in order to offer rentals to students at a reduced cost.

Assuming they can’t find the required materials online, students can go to a public or UC-operated library instead of searching for rentals.

But there are plenty of online options to choose from. Findbooksprices.com can help you find the cheapest prices for a textbook. Chegg and Thriftbooks have rental options on their sites, and Amazon and Barnes and Noble offer new, used and rental book options.

The online textbook market has created a dilemma for smaller bookstores like DuBois. Bonawitz believes Amazon purchases textbooks in bulk, allowing the online retail conglomerate to sell books at the lowest cost. This business tactic can severely harm the brick-and-mortar bookstores that do not have such a large capacity.

“If I had thousands of copies of a book, I can make up whatever prices that I would like,” said Bonawitz. “Unfortunately, in the bookstore business, brick and mortar, whether that’s at the UC bookstore or here, we have to follow the publisher guidelines. We have a little bit of play, that’s why we offer discounts.”