Yes, the launch of CU was one of the more confounding corporate moves I've ever witnessed.
Try as I might, I just couldn't figure out how that scheme was going to work out, long-term. Obviously, the first-wave adopters were going to be faculty holding current adoptions. Cengage pricing is so high, profs were bound to agree to take on any offer which brought the costs down for students. There seemed to be a fair number of these kinds of adoptions. I saw it all over the bookstores, where historical Cengage book stacks now sported shelf signage urging students to purchase CU for $120 rather than buy the $260.00 bundle sitting on the shelves.
THAT degree of success was a given. But where was the growth going to come from? From takeaways? That result seemed far from certain, in that it was so squarely at odds with the way content adoption decisions are actually made on campus. And $120 was no deal, especially not for an eBook delivery. It just didn't add up – but SURELY there was someone internally who had done the math and the projections and moved forward with CU safe in the knowledge that this was a long-term fiscal winner.
Turns out there was no such research behind the maneuver. Turns out that the scheme was dreamed up by the current General Manager of HED, a Hanson friend since grad school and someone who had been shuttled from position to position during the Cengage years: Strat officer to Product officer to GM/HED. His career has mirrored Hanson and it appears obvious he has been a Hanson yes-man for decades, now.
We have learned from Hanson that this GM sold the CU concept to him during a 4 a.m. phone call. There was no CFO in place at the time, so apparently no one was minding the fiscal store.
It was a whim.
A c-apshoot inflated into a CHANGE THE WORLD raison d'etre, a banner carried proudly by reps and their multi-leveled managers alike!
I ran into a Cengage rep on campus some 6 or 8 months ago, and we spoke briefly. Nothing beyond her asking me "hows your year going?" - which I answered, then I posed the same question to her. Her face screwed up into something like a smile that she was trying to hide and she replied "well, we have Cengage Unlimited, so . . . yeah" quite smugly. It was as if she held the secret of life in her back pocket and it really s*cked to be me.
All I could do was to smile and shake my head and (silently) ask her "and I wonder how much longer you are going to have this job. . . "