The UB campus (Photo by Rich Mitchell)

A longtime outlet for textbooks in the Buffalo area has decided to remove academic materials from its bookshelves.

Talking Leaves has been a staple among University of Buffalo students when it comes to textbooks. Although the independent bookstore’s shelves have not been completely packed with only college textbooks, the store is known for selling them and offering great prices on them.

According to this story in the Buffalo News, the store, which opened in 1971, recently decided to discontinue its textbook sales.

Jonathon Welch, who owns the store with his wife Martha, told the newspaper that it came down to a few basic reasons that led him to the difficult decision.

“Given the trend in the last five years, our choice, I think, was to ramp up the textbook business and try to do it in a way that was bigger – or get out of it,” Welch told the paper. “And bigger is not better to me.”

The store would annually be stocked with textbooks requested by UB faculty, primarily from the social sciences and humanities departments. At its peak, Talking Leaves made about 40% of its profits from selling textbooks. A few thousand students purchased books for about 225 different courses at the school every semester at one point.

Welch said the Internet is the main reason his store can no longer afford to supply students with course materials.

“What’s changed is the Internet and the wider availability of used books on the Internet. That’s allowed people to shop around more than they could have before. In the old days, there were always used textbooks, but basically you had to buy them where you were, There could be 100 copies of an economic textbook at the University of Michigan, but that wasn’t going to help you if you were at UB. Now, you can actually find that out and order it online.”

Welch also gave two other reasons for a drop in textbook sales – the fact that more rental programs exist today and the fact that many students are simply not buying some of the books they need for their classes because of the high prices for them.

“My sense is that a lot of these kids are smart enough to figure out either how to use the Web, how to use their friends and to do enough work to get through the class,” he told the paper. “You’re not going to knock the socks off the teacher, but you’re not going to fail, either.”

Talking Leaves will continue to sell a wide variety of books, including poetry, political books, bestsellers, and fiction. The company has two locations in Buffalo – the main location at 3158 Main Street and a second location at 951 Elmwood Avenue.