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Textbook authors sue Cengage over subscription service

In the US, two authors have filed a federal lawsuit against educational publisher Cengage, alleging that the company’s new subscription service will improperly cost them sales and royalty payments, reports Publishers Weekly.

Filed by authors David Knox and Caroline Schact, the suit claims that in introducing its Cengage Unlimited subscription service, Cengage ‘is systematically dismantling and frustrating the business of selling Plaintiffs’ work’ in favor of selling subscriptions to Cengage’s digital products. The authors ‘expect their royalties to decline substantially’ as a result of their work being made available through Cengage Unlimited.

The filing states: ‘The fundamental bargain struck between [the authors] and their publishers was for the payment of royalties upon the sale of their works’.

The suit claims that, in switching to a digital subscription service, Cengage has ‘wrongfully’ implemented ‘a unilateral change to the compensation structure for its authors’, moving from ‘the contractual royalty-on-sale’ compensation model, to a ‘relative use’ model, which pays authors a ‘fractional percentage of Cengage’s subscription fees, based on the relative use of the work’.

The suit also claims that Cengage is not properly compensating authors for its distribution of ‘digital courseware’ and other add-ons, such as ‘multimedia displays, homework, quizzes, tests and other supplements’ derived from their authors’ work.

Knox and Schact will seek individual and collective damages for Cengage’s alleged breach of the contract.

In a statement, Cengage responded that it was ‘disappointed’ by the complaint as it sought to ‘perpetuate a broken model of high costs and less access’. The publisher added that it would remain ‘steadfast in [its] commitment to … ultimately save students hundreds of dollars a year’.

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, Cengage Unlimited launched late last year as part of the publisher’s goal to move 90% of US higher education sales to digital formats by 2020.

 

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Category: International news