Saturday, December 01, 2012

The Consumer Society is Changing

Having acquired the latest Amazon kindle with internet access and admittedly enjoying a daily read  of a  (usually) 99p book on my kindle during the journey to work on  the London Underground from Wimbledon to Victoria, I feel slightly  hypocritical  when questioning the success of Amazon in the UK at present.

However  now that December has arrived and possible Christmas presents come into mind, I looked at one of  the latest offerings from the local Waterstones bookshop. Waterstones is a shop that usually pleases and I hope that it continues to survive and thrive. A possible Christmas present for a keen cook is the Venetian Cookbook "Polpo". Waterstones currently is  featuring  this book and its author and also has a special offer for people like me to buy the book at a reduced price of £20 compared with the recommended selling price of £25. However upon turning to Amazon I see that they are offering the same book at £14.75, although reading the small print Amazon indicate that delivery might take a couple of months whereas Waterstones suggest delivery or collection within a couple of days. The Amazon offering might therefore be too risky for a Christmas present.

I recall chatting to an assistant in the Wimbledon Waterstones a few months ago about the competition from Amazon, which at the time  Waterstones were fighting furiously. Doubtless there is still some fight going on but this seems somewhat subdued now as Waterstones  is now  selling the Amazon Kindle;  although perhaps in an "if you can't beat them join them" kind of way.

If  the competition was on a level playing field so to speak, Waterstones would in my view  need to improve  to keep up with the Amazon game, by  some form of competitive of action or other. However  I gather that Waterstones pays tax on its UK profits such as they are, whereas I understand that Amazon has spent a huge amount of effort in minimising its UK tax liability, by for example having its ostensible British/European HQ in Luxembourg where EU membership notwithstanding,  the corporation tax rate is  far lower than it is  in the UK.

Given the hard times now affecting members of the  EU both inside and outside the Eurozone, I should have thought that European action should be taken to ensure that corporation  tax is paid   Europe-wide, in proportion to the  amount of business done in an EU country rather than  apparently attracting companies to base HQs in small countries which have    small social service needs and  possibly consequently  small if not tiny tax rates. Naturally the EU will not disturb such unfairnesses where farming is not involved, so in my view, our own government should review the tax positions of those companies which transact huge amounts of business in the UK but pay very little UK corporation tax . In other words pressure should be put on the likes of Amazon to pay UK tax  more in proportion to its real profits from its UK sales than it apparently does at present.

Meanwhile, sadly I continue to enjoy the convenience of my Kindle and the cheapness of many of the books sold for electronic use by Amazon but  maybe I will opt for the Waterstones Polpo.

1 comment:

  1. Another very interesting post, Jerry. I can't help thinking that in the long run the future is rather bleak for the likes of Waterstone's, though I hope I'm wrong.
    An allied question is: what sort of book would you rather read in non-electronic form? One category, in my case, would be travel books. The Lonely Planet books are already available for the Kindle but as far as I am aware, they are not illustrated. If and when Kindle can produce a lavishly illustrated series such as, for example, the National Geographic Traveler books, then the writing will really be on the wall!


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