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Answering Author Questions about Cengage Unlimited

The launch of Cengage Unlimited has been met with excitement as many in higher education see how this new subscription model will make learning more affordable and accessible.


As we get ready to roll out our new all-you-can-learn subscription service in August, we want to address questions raised by our key partners: Cengage authors. Below is a roundup of frequently asked questions, as well as questions raised in a recent blog post by an authors’ group.


Cengage Unlimited Royalty Calculation Components


How did you develop the new royalty calculation methodology for Cengage Unlimited?

We worked very closely with an external auditing firm to determine relative values of each product type and to ensure that revenues are accurately recognized. We set the revenue pool values for each of the components offered under Cengage Unlimited relative to each other by looking at similar products in the marketplace, standalone pricing, etc. We also evaluated the potential use of each component based on how we expect a typical student to behave. Learn more about royalty calculation components.


Will there be royalties paid on print copies distributed through Cengage Unlimited?

Yes. Print rentals are a part of the Cengage Unlimited Revenue Pools, just like courseware and ebooks. If a student decides to keep the print rental, then it will be transitioned to a print sale subject to a royalty.


Role of the Author with Cengage Unlimited


Are you reducing the role of the author under the Cengage Unlimited model?

Absolutely not. Authors have always played—and will continue to play—a key role in providing students the highest quality teaching and learning materials. Cengage Unlimited does not change our focus on quality learning and quality content. Our authors are essential to delivering this as they are leading experts and respected teachers in their fields of study.


Can authors opt out?

No. Cengage Unlimited is a business model that will offer authors’ materials to millions more students. We are committed to offering as robust a library of products in Cengage Unlimited as possible and strongly believe this will be a successful endeavor for our authors and the company. We have ongoing conversations with our authors covering what, when and how we will publish our products. Cengage Unlimited will not change these conversations. If Cengage authors have any questions about Cengage Unlimited or their contracts, their Product Managers will follow up with them. If Cengage authors are unsure who to contact, they can viewa list of Product Directors by discipline.


How can authors be involved in Cengage Unlimited going forward?

Our authors are valued partners and we welcome their input about how we can make Cengage Unlimited a success together. Cengage Unlimited is intended to be a collaborative effort to meet students’ learning needs. We encourage our authors to contact their Product Managers with any ideas or suggestions on how we can better support students in achieving their learning goals and grow our business with Cengage Unlimited.


Cengage Unlimited Basics


Why is Cengage introducing Cengage Unlimited?

Based on thousands of conversations with many of our authors over the years, we know that educators, instructors and academic experts become textbook authors because they want to share their expertise with as many people as possible.


Unfortunately, the current model for higher education course materials is broken. The reality is that students often choose between the materials they can afford and the results they want. Because of this, they resort to old editions, borrowed materials or, worse yet, nothing at all. That’s why we’re launching Cengage Unlimited: to lower students’ costs and improve access to high quality content and digital learning tools.


The dynamics of our industry cannot be denied. Revenues for all textbook publishers have been declining during the past five years. On average, author royalty payments have declined at a similar, albeit slightly slower, rate. Again, disrupting the industry, and leading with affordability via a subscription service that has the potential to bring authored materials to millions and millions MORE students, is a disruption that this industry and students badly need.


How will Cengage Unlimited be sold?

Cengage Unlimited subscriptions will be sold via most traditional retail models, including direct from Cengage, at university bookstores and online textbook distributors.


Will we continue to sell our products through existing channels?

Yes. Cengage Unlimited is not replacing traditional access to Cengage materials, including print textbooks. Courseware can still be purchased standalone or as a bundle, and print editions and rentals are still available through traditional channels. Cengage believes in providing students with learning solutions they will value, regardless of format. Royalty payment calculations for these options remain unchanged.


Have more questions? Visit our Cengage Unlimited Frequently Asked Questions page.


I was told that the information presented in slides at the Webinar given today would be at this website. Apparently it is not all collected in one place. I was hoping to get a copy of the slides because I was unable to be there for the presentation.


Hi jwmoore - thanks for the post! Most of the information from the webinar PowerPoint is in several blog posts, but we will not be posting the webinar slides. If you have any additional questions or would like to have another conversation regarding the webinar, please reach out to your Product Manager. If you don't know your PM, please send an email to and we will be happy to get you in touch!


Dear Steve,

Your response is very short on information.

May product manager says all of the information is on this blog.

You say all of the information is on this blog.


It was not my goal to read the entire blog.



Hi John - your PM will be reaching out to you personally to answer any questions you have.


Am I correct that Cengage is proposing to give students who subscribe to CU the option of renting a hard copy of a text?  If so, how does the author of the book get compensated?  Do they receive a set percentage of the book's sale price that is specified in their contract?  An initial examination of CU looks like it will benefit students greatly but primarily at the expense of authors who will receive only a small subset of their previous royalties.  Please comment.


Hi Grafton - Yes, print rentals are part of Cengage Unlimited and are part of the Cengage Unlimited Revenue Pools, from which royalties are paid. If a student decides to keep the print rental, then it will be transitioned to a print sale subject to a royalty.


For any additional questions or comments, you may talk to your Product Manager, else she will contact you next week.


Assuming the hypothetical that the price of Cengage Unlimited and the price of my ebook are identical. Given a scenario in which 3 equally priced Cengage Unlimited books (my book and 2 others) are used in the same semester by a student:

  1. Is it correct that my royalties will be about 1/3 of what they would have been if the student were not using Cengage Unlimited? 
  2. If so, doesn’t that indicate that it is in my best interest to discourage my colleagues at my university from using any Cengage book but mine? 
  3. Isn’t this true at every university where a Cengage author works, such that every other Cengage author is now motivated to discourage their colleagues from using my book?
  4. Is it correct that if this scenario is the norm (most students that use my book will also regularly access 2 other Cengage books in that semester), I will have to triple my number of adoptions just to maintain the same level of royalties that I would have gotten without Cengage Unlimited?

Hi Steven-

Cengage Unlimited creates a huge opportunity to support students who are currently forced to make tough choices about course materials they purchase due to cost.  In fact, about 20% of higher education students in the United States elected not to purchase recommended learning materials for their courses in 2017.  In addition, sales of new higher education materials (industry-wide) has declined by about 25% over the last five years.  This has had a negative impact on publishers and authors- Cengage Unlimited provides us with the opportunity to reverse this course starting in August 2018. 


Please note that Cengage Unlimited is not replacing traditional access to Cengage materialsCourseware solutions may still be purchased standalone or as a bundle, and print editions will still be available for purchase and rental through traditional channels.


Your product manager will be in touch with you shortly to discuss how Cengage Unlimited will impact sales of your title(s) both at your university and beyond.  Have a great day!


Hi Steve,


Thanks for the comment, but it doesn't answer my questions. I didn't mean to imply in my question that I thought CU was replacing traditional access to Cengage materials. I've heard the information in your comment many, many times from Cengage in response to these questions and others, but almost nothing that actually responds to the questions that I've asked.


I have a contract that was drawn up in the 1990s.  It has not changed, but publishers have come and gone and Cengage itself has changed the way it provides materials to students.  I guess what i cannot understand and cannot really get an answer to is how much is the royalty to me on the new materials, many of which I created myself.  My product manager is very good, excellent, in fact, but she can only assure me that I am being paid.  I think each of us is asking how are our royalties being calculated in the new environment.  It looks a bit as if these good ideas (and they are good) to help students with the cost of materials were developed first and then everyone is trying to come up with how each of us will be paid.  Perhaps it is an individual matter and that is why each of us is being referred to our production manager.  We need to understand with whomever we speak to how our royalties will now be configured.


Hi Grafton,


The way I read the response to your question, is that "No" we will not receive royalties on a rental unless the student decides to keep the rental and turn it into a sale.  If a student "rents" a hard copy and then returns it at the end of the rental period, we get nothing for that "rental" beyond the usage of the ebook in CU.  This means that if your book is so important to the student that they want a physical copy of the book to use during their class, you may actually get paid less because they can use the hard copy, which isn't tracked by usage statistics, instead of the ebook, which is tracked by usage statistics.



Thank you for continuing the dialogue with us.  We are keenly aware of the fact that this new way of working together and looking at royalties is very new, different, and can be confusing.  As with all complex concepts, we’ve found over the past several months that the best way to get on the same page with our authors is through a live discussion, a one-on-one conversation between each author and one of the product team members.  For this reason, we encourage all authors to reach out to the Product Manager with which they work, and if they do not know that Product Manager, to please contact us at, and we will very quickly connect you with the right person in the Product organization to start that conversation.


We appreciate this will take time for us all to work through the new construct together and are grateful to you for engaging in these conversations.


Thank you for your comment.  I have spoken with my excellent Product Manager, and will be speaking with her again this week.  The fact that two Cengage representatives on this blog have responded to my posts by deflecting the questions instead of answering them gives us the answer.  I don't think there is really any confusion surrounding the issues that I've raised, but I appreciate that Cengage does not want to publicly acknowledge the negative impacts of Cengage Unlimited on the authors. I also understand that Cengage is reluctant to admit that an unfortunate effect of the CU royalty scheme is that Cengage authors are financially rewarded for discouraging the use of other Cengage products in their own institutions.  I fear this will be creating some very uncomfortable situations for many on the sales teams.