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Author Mark Ciampa Reflects on Cengage Unlimited

The following post was written by Cengage author Mark Ciampa.

As a long-time author for Cengage for over 20 years and an instructor in higher education for over 35 years, I am very excited about Cengage Unlimited. In fact, it is perhaps one of the most dramatic steps in education in recent memory.  I believe that it can significantly increase learning and relieve frustration in both students and faculty.


Delaying Textbook Purchases

For several years virtually all textbook authors and instructors, across all disciplines and all publishers, have seen the same phenomena: fewer students are purchasing textbooks and related materials for their classes. The reason usually given is that of the high cost of books and materials. This has resulted in students struggling through classes without what they need to be successful.


I have often witnessed students who sacrifice earning a good grade in a class because they are not able to purchase a required textbook. And many students who do purchase textbooks, often will delay the process until several weeks into the semester just to be certain that the materials are actually needed and will be used. Adding on the additional time it takes for the student to find the lowest priced book, order it and have it shipped can result in several weeks before the majority of students have their materials in hand. And this is often despite pleas by instructors to secure these materials as soon as the class starts.


If students lack these materials it is extremely difficult for an instructor to gain the necessary speed quickly enough to cover all the course material. It then becomes a frustrating learning experience overall for both students and instructors.


Affordable Materials—When Students Need Them

Cengage Unlimited directly addresses these problems. First, it makes it more affordable for students to have the materials that they need at a very reasonable cost. Second, instruction can begin at the start of the semester by giving students access to digital content immediately instead of waiting for books to be ordered and shipped.


From a strictly authoring perspective, all authors with whom I have spoken have witnessed a decline—sometimes a sharp decline—in royalties over the past several years. Once again, the cause is students not purchasing the required books and materials for a class. Cengage Unlimited addresses this issue in an affordable way for students that will produce a more consistent royalty stream for authors, which in turn gives authors a better opportunity to continue their work in authoring.


Cengage Unlimited is just what students and authors need!


Dr. Mark Ciampa

Frequent Commenter

Like Dr. Mark Ciampa, I have been a Cengage author for many years, writing the first book in the Course Technology Networking series back in 1994 (Hands-on NetWare 3.12). Over this time, I have witnessed many changes in both education and the IT industry. As we all know, the costs of books and other materials continues to increase, especially in the technology fields where printed materials become dated very quickly. As Mark mentioned, this increased cost creates challenges for instructors, who want to teach the latest technology in their classes, as well as for many students who may not be able to afford the materials needed to achieve their goals.  When I wrote my first books the Internet was just beginning to become an educational resource. Today, both students and teachers rely heavily on the Internet for their educational and social needs. Cengage has "tapped" into this capability with their MindTap product offerings. MindTap, combined with Practice Labs, is a great way schools can put IT courses and materials on-line where students can access the resources they need independent of time or location. The next barrier to getting more students to benefit from using our materials is cost, and I believe in this way Cengage Unlimited opens up a great opportunity for instructors, students, and authors. While initially these new opportunities present challenges for authors, I believe in the long run the increased volume can mean good royalties along with more writing opportunities. For example, using Cengage Unlimited, instructors can build courses consisting of modules from multiple books. Using multiple books in a course would be economically out the question in traditional education economics.  For example, my latest publication, Hands-on Virtual Computing, has modules that could be incorporated in a variety of existing courses. Using just selected modules from my book is totally feasible with Cengage Unlimited and in that sense it increases my book's potential sales volume. In the future we may be able to write and update just specific modules that can enhance student learning and associated job opportunities. In conclusion, I think that Cengage is doing a great job in finding ways to enhance educational opportunities for students and still reimburse authors for their work in this new and challenging environment.  While Cengage Unlimited will probably need some tweaking as we go forward, given Cengage's approach I am very optimistic about future sales, and I salute this brave new approach to increasing educational opportunities. 

Ted Simpson




Thanks, Ted and Mark, for sharing your thoughts around Cengage Unlimited. Smiley Happy