Reviewing your author contract: Planning for the future

The life cycle of a successful textbook reaches well past the life of its author, given that copyright law currently extends rights in a work to the life of the author + 70 years. That means not just your children, but even your grandchildren may benefit from the fruits of your labors. At the same time, for books—and in particular textbooks—governed by publishing contracts, it is important for both you and your heirs to understand your, and by extension their, rights and responsibilities.

The first step is to pull out your publishing contract. If it is a typical royalty-bearing contract, then you likely have rights in every revision in which you participate. [Read more…]

College textbook publishing: Royalties, risk, and reward

High books stack with open book isolated on white background. Many colorful book covers.College textbook authors are motivated to write for many reasons. Some write with the goal of providing the optimum textbook for their students. Others are excited to share their approach to teaching a subject, or they simply enjoy the experience of translating research into practice. And, in some cases, the primary motive is to generate income.

Regardless of their motives, every textbook author must grapple with the same question: How can I achieve the best return on the time I spend writing a textbook, and how much risk should I accept in exchange for my sweat equity? To this end, there are several considerations authors should keep in mind regarding royalties as they negotiate a publishing agreement. [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…]

Pedagogy of the book and chapter questions

teachDoes the organization of the textbook relate to pedagogical approaches used to teach with it? I considered this question in relation to chapter organization in a previous post. In this post I will explore another part of the typical textbook chapter: questions.

Flip to the end of a textbook chapter, and you will usually find a list of questions, exercises, or other suggested assignments. Sometimes you will find additional learning activity ideas and resources on the companion website. Do they serve a purpose, or do readers flip past to get to the next assigned reading? [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…]

2018 Textbook award-winning insight (Part 2): Boosting writing confidence, scheduling writing time, software

2017 TAA Textbook AwardsWe recently reached out to winners of the 2018 TAA Textbook Awards and asked them to answer some questions about their textbook writing. We will be sharing their answers in a series of posts over the next few weeks. The first installment focused on why they decided to write their textbook and how they got started.

This second installment in the four-part series focuses on how they boost their confidence as a writer, how they fit writing time into their schedule, and what software they use. [Read more…]

Cengage, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Wiley win $34.2m willful trademark and copyright infringement suit

Don't buy counterfeit textbooksCengage, McGraw-Hill Education, Pearson, and Wiley won a $34.2 million verdict in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against a group of online booksellers and their owner for dealing in counterfeit textbooks.

The nine-person jury unanimously found the defendants — several Ohio-based bookselling companies, including Book Dog Books and Robert William Management, and their owner, Philip Smyres — liable for willful trademark infringement, willful copyright infringement, and breach of a prior settlement agreement. [Read more…]

Announcement of Cengage Unlimited royalty calculation model raises new questions

online library of textbooksCengage’s royalty calculation model for its new subscription service Cengage Unlimited has raised a few questions that remain unanswered, primarily, will their model account for the range of existing publishing agreements—which have a variety of different provisions for accounting for royalties?

“Here’s the key problem,” said Stephen E. Gillen, a partner with Wood, Herron & Evans. “Cengage has a wide variety of different contracts that were entered over time. Some of their longer lasting titles, those in their 10th edition and up, are the subjects of original contracts still in place that were entered 40 or more years ago. Many of their contracts were not done on Cengage forms but were acquired from other publishers, all of which have different provisions for accounting for royalties. Some of them were done before the days of bundling, custom publishing, digital publishing, and publishing through interactive/adaptive learning platforms and so do not provide expressly for those then unanticipated media or channels of distribution. But Cengage has thousands of authors and almost certainly a greater number of contracts (no author will have less than one contract, and many will have multiple contracts). It’s hard for me to imagine that they are going to have lawyers go back over every single contract to determine if and how it should be treated in the current scheme.” [Read more…]

4/12 TAA Webinar: ‘Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities’

Robert MartinengoAs digital technology continues to redefine the market for instructional materials, one thing remains constant: students with disabilities must not be left out. While products evolve, the concepts of equal access, and the legal obligation of educational institutions not to discriminate, remain.

Join us Thursday, April 12 from 2-3 p.m. ET, for the TAA Webinar, “Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities”, presented by Robert Martinengo, Publisher Outreach Specialist for the CAMI project at AMAC Accessibility. [Read more…]