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…]

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…]

How to incorporate accessibility throughout the publishing process

Digital AccessibilityIn his recent webinar, “Making Textbooks Accessible to Students With Disabilities”, Robert Martinengo, Publisher Outreach Specialist for the CAMI project at AMAC Accessibility, said that the issue of accessibility is even more important when it comes to digital products.

“The ability to navigate through a digital textbook is a critical component of accessibility,” he said. “Navigation is enabled by consistent and rational use of tags throughout the text.”

In addition to effective navigation, accessible manuscripts should also include these four elements, said Martinengo: [Read more…]

5 Hopeful changes in the publishing industry in 2018

changeRecently we asked several TAA members the question, “What changes are you hoping to see within the publishing industry this year?” Five key changes were identified: improvements in self-publishing, technology-driven innovations, better peer-review processes, increases in open access publishing, and a new era of transparency in publisher-author communication. [Read more…]

Paper or digital? How to decide the format for your monograph or book

Paper or e-book?A question continues in some stores, “Paper or plastic?” While recyclable bags may make this a thing of the past, other questions continue. Authors continue to ponder whether their book should be a paper copy or an eBook. While this is an important discussion, it should not cause deep thinking.

The obvious answer is both. If a publisher is wise, it will offer a book or monograph in both formats. This is a smart consumer-centric option. Let the buyer decide which they prefer. Let’s discuss, though, each format to see where the market is and the virtues of each one. [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…]