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 good faith 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. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

Nominations for the 2021 Textbook Awards now open

2021 TAA Textbook AwardsNominations for the 2021 Textbook Excellence Award (“Texty”), McGuffey Longevity Award (“McGuffey”), and Most Promising New Textbook Award, will be open September 1 to November 1.

For more than 20 years, TAA has supported textbook and academic authors through these highly-recognized awards, given annually to emerging and veteran published authors in eight subject categories. [Read more…]

Reflecting diversity, equity, and inclusion in our publications

library bookshelfI’ll never forget that encounter I had with Kathy a number of years ago. Kathy and I are friends now, but I’d never met her before that moment when she introduced herself at our annual anatomy and physiology (A&P) teaching conference. She asked if I had a moment to chat about how illustrations are chosen for textbooks. As you can imagine, I love talking about the process of creating textbooks, so we stepped aside for a quick chat.

It turns out that she was chatting up as many A&P textbook authors as she could, including a few other TAA members, with a question that stemmed from her interest in diversity issues. Kathy wanted to know about the illustration process because she wanted to know why women and other groups were underrepresented. [Read more…]

The power of systematic checklists: Saving time, uncovering Easter eggs, and preventing overload

It’s 8:30 a.m.

Time to refill my mug of tea, revive my computer, and work on the ol’ textbook. I know I have a lot to do, but I feel good … at first. Then I catch a glimpse of my bloated task list and I’m immediately discouraged.

Let’s see. I still haven’t finished the manuscript for the sixth and final unit. The copyeditor is already sending batches of early chapters for my approval, the artists need corrections on drafts of new figures, the designer wants a decision on the cover photo, and a professor who uses my current edition wants more coverage of tardigrades. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I also have classes to teach, meetings to attend, and personal responsibilities that I can’t abandon. Suddenly, I’m in a tizzy. [Read more…]

What can Learning Science teach textbook authors?

At a 2019 national sales meeting, my publisher Macmillan Learning, hosted a luncheon for textbook authors with our Learning Science team. This was my first opportunity to learn about what learning science does – their research and how findings might guide textbook organization, content and revisions as well as pedagogical approaches and application. For example, through analytics the learning science team can track where students spend their time in digital formats reflecting potential confusion, but also interest.  Their research can help determine what might be most effective for student engagement and assessment.

Here I am pleased to ask a few questions of Erin Scully, Senior Director, Learning Design & Ed Research with Macmillan Learning, to provide insights into ways learning science can augment textbook quality and influence our pedagogical approach. [Read more…]

Pedagogy Corner: How speedbumps can accelerate student learning

speedbumpsAs a textbook author, have you ever asked your students how they read your book? An inquiry into how your students read their textbooks may reveal much information that can help authors design textbooks with students in mind.

I recall when I was a college student―yes, a very long time ago―how I read a textbook chapter for a college course: I set aside at least 3 hours of undistracted time, read the entire chapter word-for-word, took copious notes, spent time examining and understanding all of the figures, and then systematically answered every single end-of-chapter question. Only after this procedure did I feel like I had a good understanding of the material. [Read more…]

Copyright, Covid, and the Virtual Classroom

CopyrightWith the fall semester fast approaching, faculty are intensively preparing for the 2020-2021 academic year, in the face of continually changing information and circumstances. A number of our higher education clients have had questions about copyright issues relating to the transition of traditional in-person classes to online or hybrid formats. We have also been reviewing software agreements for various services that allow institutions to shift more of their offerings online. Here we discuss four common issues we have encountered. Although the answers are seldom black-and-white, we thought it would be useful to share some of the questions and possible approaches to them:

1) When can copyrighted third-party materials (including text, photographs, video, and music) be used without permission or licenses in online teaching activities? Can college libraries scan and provide digital access to print reserve materials? [Read more…]

TAA’s 2021 Conference Call for Proposals Is Open

TAA announces a Call for Proposals for its 34th Annual Textbook & Academic Authoring Conference which will be held June 18-19, 2021 in Indianapolis, IN. We invite the submission of presentations relevant to writing, publishing, and marketing textbooks and academic works (textbooks, academic books, journal articles, and monographs). Interactive, hands-on sessions are encouraged. The proposal deadline is October 7, 2020.

The conference will be held at the beautiful Conrad Indianapolis, a 5-Star hotel boasting a premier downtown Indianapolis location just two blocks from the capitol. A highly interactive event, the conference will be attended by authors and aspiring authors of textbooks, journal articles, and other academic works, as well as by industry professionals from across the country.

Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Time Management and Writing Productivity
  • Promoting Social Equity in Textbook and/or Academic Authoring
  • Publishing Industry Updates & Trends
  • Navigating Copyright and Permissions
  • Savvy Contract and Royalty Negotiating & Monitoring
  • Marketing Your Works and Creating Your Brand
  • Authoring in an Open Access/OER Environment
  • Non-Traditional Paths to Getting Published
  • Tech Tools to Enhance Your Works

Click here for detailed information on the selection process, submission guidelines, session formats, and the proposal form visit.

Digital is coming for your textbooks

Digital is Coming for Your TextbooksWhile it has long been prophesied that the print textbook would disappear, it has actually taken quite a bit longer than people anticipated.

In the final session of TAA’s Summer Webinar Series, “Digital is Coming for Your Textbooks” at 2pm ET on July 30th, Christopher Kenneally, Director of Business Development, Copyright Clearance Center and Independent Publishing Industry Consultant, Michael Cairns, will review the latest developments in the creation, sourcing, and delivery of digital textbooks and will examine the looming fight for control of usage data. [Read more…]