The 2019 textbook report

As we near the end of the decade, textbook authors face a myriad of changes in industry structure and public perception reflected and fueled by the headlines in the news. In her annual textbook report, veteran author June Jamrich Parsons shared some of those headlines and the details behind them with attendees at her 2019 conference session in Philadelphia, PA.

Below is a summary of her presentation, including key takeaways about industry profitability, textbook prices, publishing formats, and instructor perceptions.

Preparing for ripples, waves, and tsunamis in textbook and academic publishing

Kevin PattonRecently, we’ve seen shifts from print to digital, the rise of open educational resources and open-access journals, the consolidation of large publishers into mega-publishers, fundamental changes in how authors are compensated, and other significant changes to the nature of authoring. As we wait to see which of the ripples coming over the horizon dissipate and which become large—perhaps overwhelming—waves, what can we authors do to remain afloat?

Three main strategies can help academic and textbook authors continue to succeed as changes in textbooks, journals, or scholarly publications come along: vigilance, honing core skills, and agility.

Write to reach your true audience

In writing, your voice is the way you “speak” to your audience, and it includes your word choices, your “tone” of voice, and what you intentionally or unintentionally reveal about yourself. Style is the way you use words to express yourself in writing. A second meaning of style is the system of conventions you adopt to format your writing for your subject area, such as the American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), Council of Biology Editors (CBE), or The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago style). Voice and style are important matters in textbook publishing. By themselves, your voice and writing style can make or break your book. Making decisions about voice and style involves reflecting on your mission, understanding your audience, choosing how you will represent yourself and your subject, and monitoring your tone.

Most useful textbook and academic posts of the week: September 6, 2019

This week’s collection of articles from around the web begins with prompts to stimulate your thinking and methods for finding papers for your literature review. It continues with the importance of validating faculty research, consideration of your timeline for finishing a PhD, and expectations when presenting research to an industry audience. Finally, we have some noteworthy industry news on cost per use value models, the value of the big deal, the Cengage-McGraw Hill merger, and a new textbook model at UC Davis.

Neil Gaiman once said, “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” Happy writing!

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.