Call for nominations to TAA Council

As a member-driven organization, TAA relies on members’ willingness to get involved in governance and other activities of the association. The TAA Governance Committee announces a call for nominations for two open Council positions and three Officer roles. Nominations can be submitted online and must be received by Friday, March 12, 2021.

Executive Director’s Message: The changing face of piracy

I invite you to try an experiment. If you have authored a textbook or monograph in the past 20 years, go to your favorite search engine and type in the title of that work. Scroll around a bit amongst the results and scrutinize the sources that claim to be able to provide your book, in full text, for a fee or for free. Did you find any that you were unaware of?…any that are giving it away for free that you did not know about or that your publisher tells you are illegitimate? How far down your list of search results did you have to go to find an instance of one of these illegitimate copies of your work?

Will aggregated textbook products shift more risk to authors?

In a post on October 20, I described decisions made by the Southern District of New York in a lawsuit between authors and Cengage. The authors had alleged breach of contract as well as bad faith dealings by Cengage in regard to their products Cengage Unlimited and MindTap. Read about it here.

This is more of a thought piece—generated in part by an aspect of the authors’ allegations—about what would constitute goodfaith in a publisher’s interactions with authors. I ask this not as a legal matter, about which I am not qualified to opine, but as an ethical one.

The authors’ allegations stem from an uncontested aspect of both the MindTap and Cengage Unlimited royalty allocation models. In both products, Cengage counts a portion of each sale as non-royalty-bearing income. In the case of MindTap, that non-royalty-bearing portion is called ‘ancillary materials’ encompassing “tests, studies guides, exercises”. For Cengage Unlimited, this portion is called ‘courseware’ but apparently includes the same ancillary materials as MindTap.

Authors’ suit against Cengage hits snags

In October 2019, six authors, intending to form a class action together with other Cengage authors, filed a lawsuit against Cengage alleging that Cengage’s royalty accounting for proceeds from distribution of their products through the MindTap and Cengage Unlimited business models breached the publisher’s royalty arrangements with authors. In addition to the breach of contract claim, the authors alleged that Cengage acted in bad faith towards authors regarding the two products. Before a trial could get underway, Cengage responded by asking for all counts to be dismissed, and that the attempt to form a class action be denied.

Cengage and McGraw-Hill call it quits

On Monday, May 4, McGraw-Hill and Cengage separately made public the termination of their merger agreement that was announced just a year ago on May 1, 2019.

Both releases state that the decision to terminate was mutually reached, and both noted that the two publishers will part ways without financial liability to one another. McGraw-Hill CEO Simon Allen cited as the main reason for the termination that “…required divestitures would have made the merger uneconomical.” The Cengage announcement reflects that rationale and further asserts that the termination came about “due to a prolonged regulatory review process and the inability to agree to a divestitures package with the U.S. Department of Justice.”

Mervin (Mike) L. Keedy Obituary

In March, 2020, we received notice from Nathan Keedy that TAA’s founding member, Mike Keedy, had passed away, just shy of his 100th birthday. Nathan provided his father’s obituary, which we share below, with an expanded section related to Mike’s TAA activities.

Mervin (Mike) L. Keedy Obituary

Mike KeedyDr. Mervin (Mike) Keedy died peacefully at home with his family on March 14. As a math professor it is fitting that he died on pi day, 3.14.  Dr. Keedy was born (the oldest of 3 sons) on August 2, 1920 on a farm in western Nebraska of parents: Albert L. Keedy, Jr. and Iva Barney Keedy.