Saturday, May 28, 2016

Small Local Bookshops v Amazon and Internet Giants

The closure of Wimbledon's Waterstone's Bookshop  may have arisen through fears about the demolition of much of the area through the creation of the new Cross Rail 2 terminus at the station.  That  possibility does not seem to have deterred Metro Bank from taking over the old  bookshop and two of its neighbours (one of which also sold books) and beginning to construct an huge new branch on the three combined premises, or more likely in my view, the bookshops' closures  arise through pressures placed on book sellers throughout the country and abroad by physically invisible, impersonal internet sites such as Amazon. It is noteworthy that to date neither of the closed booksellers has re-opened elsewhere in the locality.

As one who uses an Amazon to read and enjoy numerous books on the  daily Underground journey to the office I have mixed feelings about the ways in which such internet sites presently seem to operate within the UK. 

On the one hand having  interesting novels priced as little as 99p is a great and inexpensive way to while away the 35 minutes commute time. 

Additionally when traveling long distances say by plane, the Kindle or its equivalent provides a convenient and almost weight free way, of accessing good books whereas lugging the tomes around when traveling, as used to be the case, could be hugely inconvenient and more expensive.

On the other hand, the ways in which some of these faceless international online only companies, seem to cause many local face to face shops to suffer, yet fail unlike their face to face counterparts, to pay fair tax locally for local sales, are in my humble opinion, appalling.

Mrs maytrees prefers to read real books not having an online reader and asked me to look out for one for her birthday next week - Different Class by Joanne Harris. 

The hard cover version of Different Class from Amazon is £9 plus presumably a pound or two for postage and packing. The same novel in the former Wimbledon Waterstones would have been £14.99p. In the local surviving independent bookshop the price is £15.99p.

I assume that the real UK bookshops have to pay UK tax on the profits made from their sales whereas Amazon and the like, which are happy to sell the book in the UK, pay no or very little, UK tax but instead use the highly artificial  device of pretending that their sales originate in Luxembourg or Ireland where the relevant tax is far lower. 

This state of tax affairs should surely be outlawed by the EU or as it used to be called the Common Market or if not by the UK?  

Competing rates of tax and the ease with which such mainly US companies can play off one EU state against another by the artificial device of placing their European HQs in EU countries with the lowest tax regimes is the antithesis of what the EU should be about let alone a common market?

I shall make my personal protest by acquiring the novel at the local bookshop.

As a footnote nothing seems to have happened on the EU tax front at least,   about this since my blog post on a similar topic 4 years ago at: Waterstones 2012 save that almost predictably, the EU having apparently failed to take the requisite action, Waterstones Wimbledon has since closed.

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