Publisher Cengage has been accused of “trampling on its authors’ rights” in a class action suit filed in New York Monday.
Textbook authors David Knox and Caroline Schacht are leading the lawsuit, which asserts that by adopting its Cengage Unlimited subscription model, the publisher has frustrated authors’ ability to collect royalties from sales of their textbooks and "wrongfully" and unilaterally changed the compensation structure for its authors.
The authors say that receiving a cut of the subscription fee rather than a share of the revenue from the sale of their textbooks is a breach of their publishing agreement and will "substantially" reduce their royalties.
The plaintiffs asked the court for compensation and to require Cengage to get authors' permission before including their works in the subscription package.
David Slarskey, who is representing the authors, said they hoped the lawsuit would spur "deeper discussion" about the pros and cons of Cengage's subscription approach, which, he warned, could "completely transform" the incentives in textbook publishing by "pitting authors against each other in competing for their share of a fixed subscription fee base."
In an emailed statement, Cengage said that it had “communicated clearly with our authors that the subscription service is consistent with the terms of their contracts, which we continue to honor” and accused the plaintiffs of seeking "to perpetuate a broken model of high costs and less access" for students.