MindTap and Cengage Unlimited under fire from two new class action lawsuits

On August 12, 2019 the law firm of Susman Godfrey LLC filed a class action lawsuit against Cengage Learning on behalf of Douglas Bernstein and four other authors. Three days later, a similar suit was filed by Slarskey LLC on behalf of Grafton H. Hull.

Both cases reflect elements of a 2018 lawsuit against Cengage Learning by authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht, which was handled by Slarskey’s firm. At issue in all of these cases are Cengage’s emerging publishing practices and royalty calculations associated with its digital MindTap platform and the Cengage Unlimited subscription service. [Read more…]

Cengage authors begin to receive royalty statements under Cengage Unlimited plan

CU LetterWhile some Cengage authors are still waiting for their first royalty statements under the company’s new Cengage Unlimited plan, which, launched in August 2018, offers students access to its database of textbooks and other online content for a flat fee, several have received their statements and shared how the new plan has affected their royalties.

TAA President and Cengage author Mike Kennamer said royalties from CU were included on the most recent statement for one of his three Cengage titles. “The royalties generated from CU, for me, were insignificant and overall sales are down significantly,” he said. “I plan to reach out to Cengage’s Author Relations team to ask for help in interpreting my statement, which is less than clear.” More than three weeks later, he said, he is still waiting for a response. [Read more…]

How might the McGraw-Hill and Cengage merger affect authors?

Are you wondering what the recently announced merger between textbook giants McGraw-Hill and Cengage could mean for authors? Join publishing attorney Steve Gillen and textbook author and Monroe College professor Karen Morris for their session at TAA’s 32nd Annual Conference entitled: “Mergers and Acquisitions Among Publishers: Authors Need a Life Jacket.”

Gillen and Morris will discuss the recent history of consolidation in educational publishing. How does it impact an author’s career? What can you do to prepare for the possibility? What should you do if it happens to you? What options exist if new relationships don’t go well? Get answers to these and related questions, and ideas on how to survive well. [Read more…]

Cengage announces launch of new ‘Author Relations Team’

textbooksCengage announces the launch of its new three-member “Author Relations” team, which will be responsible for working with its higher education authors on their business-specific needs and questions related to contracts and royalties.

According to a post on their blog that answered questions posed by TAA last fall, “The AR team will take lead on working with authors regarding royalties across the board. Each author will have an AR rep that they can call directly with questions of that nature.” [Read more…]

Cengage to offer new ‘Author Relations team’ starting in February 2019

Help DeskCengage announced this week that beginning in February 2019 authors will have the ability to contact a member of a newly created Author Relations team made up of “professionals with proven expertise in handling contracts, royalties and other issues that are top of mind for authors and for Cengage.”

The Author Relations team, said Cengage, will offer clear and regular communication with authors, and act as the main point of contact for questions and concerns related to contracts, royalties and/or other similar topics to ensure that author queries on these topics are addressed quickly and effectively. [Read more…]

Textbook authors settle lawsuit over Cengage Unlimited

Choices in RelationshipsTextbook authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht have settled their lawsuit with Cengage over its Cengage Unlimited subscription service for an undisclosed sum. Under the terms of the agreement, the rights to the authors’ textbook, Choices in Relationships, will revert back to them, and Cengage will receive all rights to the authors’ remaining textbooks, Marriage and the Family, and Understanding Social Problems.

Cengage authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht filed a class action lawsuit against Cengage on May 14, claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, violated their publishing agreements, and that the company was refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments. [Read more…]

Cengage denies trampling authors’ rights, claims Cengage Unlimited will increase author royalties

TextbooksIn its response to a class action lawsuit filed against them in May by David Knox and Caroline Schacht, Cengage denies that its business model “tramples on” or is in any way inconsistent with its authors’ rights and said it believes that the new Cengage Unlimited model will “increase sales and revenues (and, accordingly, royalties to authors).”

Cengage authors Knox and Schacht filed their class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 14 against Cengage claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, have violated their publishing agreements. The suit also claims that the company is refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments. [Read more…]

Will Cengage’s rising tide lift all boats?

Subscription models for reading materials are not unheard of in other industries, but they are a new model emerging within the higher education publishing industry. Late last year, Cengage announced Cengage Unlimited, a subscription based model offering access to its entire catalog of textbooks and related learning materials to college students for a flat price of $119.95 per semester calls Cengage Unlimited. Royalty structures under these models vary. Newer contracts provide broad leeway for publishers to allocate royalties on in a way they deem reasonable.

While boon to students, especially those assigned multiple Cengage texts, it has left Cengage authors wondering about the impact to their royalty earnings. [Read more…]

Authors Knox and Schacht file lawsuit against Cengage, claiming company has ‘trampled on its authors’ rights’

Textbook StackCengage authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on May 14 against Cengage claiming the company’s emphasis on digital distribution, including its new Cengage Unlimited model and expanded digital courseware offerings, have violated their publishing agreements. The suit also claims that the company is refusing to provide information that would allow them to audit their royalty payments.

According to the complaint, Cengage’s plan to overhaul its business model after emerging from bankruptcy in 2014, “has trampled on its authors’ rights”. The suit alleges that Cengage’s new Cengage Unlimited business model has the company “dismantling its support” for individual title sales in favor of selling subscriptions to Cengage Unlimited, which plaintiffs say violates their contracts and will reduce the amount of royalties they will earn, while allowing Cengage to retain a larger share of revenue. [Read more…]

Cengage says authors cannot opt out of Cengage Unlimited

textbook opt outIn a recent post on the Cengage blog, Erin Joyner, the company’s senior vice president of product, said that authors cannot opt out of Cengage Unlimited. However, industry experts say Cengage cannot make this sweeping statement.

“The large majority of publishing agreements do not contemplate the Cengage Unlimited model of distribution,” said David Slarskey, a litigator with Slarskey LLC. “Refusing author demands to opt-out tends to undermine the terms of the contract.”
[Read more…]