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.