Books for fewer bucks


UC’s multi-pronged approach leverages partnerships and technology to reduce the cost of learning materials.








By Michele Ralston

and Steve Hirschberg

Photos by UC Creative Services

Aug. 17, 2017



Students saved $2.2 million during the last academic year through the University of Cincinnati’s Textbook Affordability Initiative, a comprehensive strategy to reduce the cost of text materials.

A large portion of that savings resulted from the includED® program, which allows UC to leverage student buying power to negotiate lower prices, while simplifying their access to the digital content.

During the 2016-2017 academic year, the program saved $1.2 million – a significant increase from the 2015-2016 academic year savings of $700,000.

UC’s includED® program is designed to benefit students enrolled in large classes, which typically require expensive textbooks and materials, such as chemistry, accounting and biology among others.

“Our goal is to leverage technology and resources to provide students with a quality education in the most affordable manner,” UC Interim Provost Peter Landgren said. “We are committed to affordability and that commitment is reflected in the cross collaboration between entities at UC.”

UC student highlights a textbook

Students saved $2.2 million at UC Bookstores and other retailers through affordability initiatives.


The Textbook Affordability Committee, which is led by the Office of the Provost, includes representation from Student Government, the Faculty Senate, UC Libraries, IT@UC, the Division of Finance and Administration, UC Bookstores, CET&L, Campus Services, the Office of Undergraduate Affairs, UC Athletics and a new, in-house publisher.

As part of the Textbook Affordability Initiative, faculty are encouraged to select text materials as early as possible to allow UC Bookstores to have the books available, maintain a precise inventory informed by demand data, and secure the best available pricing – especially on used textbooks which have a limited supply.

“If we know early on what a professor is ordering, we can strategize about the best way to provide those materials to a student at the lowest cost,” said Gigi Escoe, vice provost for undergraduate affairs and chair of the Textbook Affordability Committee. “Our faculty are committed to this initiative and understand how the savings support the academic success of our students.”

The university is also able to work with publishers to reduce costs for large orders of digital textbooks. Students who are required to use an electronic workbook or other eLearning materials in courses participating in the includED® program save 40 percent on average through includED®.  

UC students and the Bearcats mascot inside the UC Bookstore

If students find a textbook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a local campus competitor that is in similar condition to the one in the university bookstore, UC Bookstores will match the outside price.


Additional programmatic savings provided to students through the Textbook Affordability Initiative include:

    •    E-bookshelf which allows students to build their own electronic library of text materials, including their notes, all of which they can keep for several years.

    •    The ability to order specific book chapters needed for courses, rather than purchasing entire books.

    •    UC Bookstore Price Match Promise: If students find a textbook from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or a local campus competitor that is in similar condition to the one in the university bookstore, the UC bookstore will match the outside price.(Some limitations apply.)

“The Textbook Affordability Committee originally set out to reduce the financial strain that course materials were imposing on students, but what we are really doing is improving the learning environment for our students,” Escoe said.

UC has been working in tandem with the Ohio Department of Higher Education in its efforts to reduce textbook costs and has shared its methods of improving the learning experience with other institutions around the state.