For readers in the EU and, particularly, the UK: The price of e-books will be going up in 2015. The culprit? VAT taxes. Starting in January, 2015, there is a huge change in the way VAT will be calculated in European countries.
Following a European Commission ruling dating back to 2008, e-books are to be taxed in the European member state in which the consumer is located, at the tax rate of that country, as opposed to the country from which the product is sold. The move prevents Amazon, Nook and Kobo from applying the low 3% tax on e-books sold to European countries, just because their headquarters are in Luxembourg. Instead, the e-book retailers will have to apply the standard UK VAT rate (20% at the time of writing) to e-books sold into the UK.
The big problem behind this for publishers, writers and consumers alike is the fact that print books have a 0% VAT rate. E-books, however, are taxed. While the tax will undoubtedly be helpful for the governments like that of the UK which will benefit from the added tax income, the new costs will affect consumers in the form of higher prices.
Before the prices go up,may I suggest e-books for Christmas? 🙂
Well, I have to ask: Is this the future of ebooks?
Today, probably the biggest book of the fall season, J.K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy, was released today. Folks have already been outraged by the unbelievable price of $17.99. (Remember, that is the price simply for the privilege of a license to download and read it – you don’t actually own it or anything.)
The price and formatting issues, as well as actual criticism and feedback on Rowling’s first adult novel add a surreal element. The varying points of view on this can be seen in the flurry of reviews on the book’s Amazon page which seem to break down into the following categories:
Reviews based on the book’s price.
Reviews based on the book’s formatting.
Reviews based on the fact that people liked Harry Potter.
Reviews from people who actually claim that they have read the book.
While this was said to be an unusual situation and the problem has supposedly been fixed, those of us who have been buying ebooks for a while now have a somewhat more cynical opinion. The truth is, typos, scanning artifacts and formatting issues are all too common in ebooks that publishers want to charge top dollar for. If major publishers can’t get it right on a release this big, I truly fear for the future of traditional publishing.
You have to admire a judge who quotee Emily Dickenson in her ruling and reflects a certain amount of cynicism as well:
In another section of the decision, Judge Cote acknowledges that the vast majority of public comments in response to the settlement were negative. She adds, however, that some comments were “extreme” and sought to blame “every evil to befall publishing on Amazon’s $9.99 price for newly released and bestselling e-books, and crediting every positive event — including entry of new competitors in the market for e-readers — on the advent of agency pricing.”
Consumers who don’t like agency pricing (like myself) will see this as a decided victory. The lawsuit against Apple and two other publishers, however, has yet to go to trial.
Now, let’s see it the price comes down on Stephen King’s On Writing. Then, if only we can get them the government to work on the library lending issue, I’ll be a happy camper….
As has been hinted at for weeks, the Department of Justice has filed a civil suit against Apple and the so-called “Big Five” publishers: Hachette SA, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster. Random House did not initially sign on to the ageny model, so it is not a part of the U.S. lawsuit. The DOJ has alleged collusion and price-fixing over the agency pricing model. Here’s a link to the DOJ filing. The level of detail in the filing is amazing and very muh at odds with rumors that the DOJ “had no evidence of any wrongdoing.”
Paid Content is announcing that Kindle and NOOK users must accept arbitration instead of suing them in the pending class action lawsuits over ebook pricing. Penguin is using the rationale that users agreed to this in Amazon and Barnes and Noble’s terms of service for the ereader devices.
I am not a lawyer, but I don’t think the argument holds water. When the publishers put the agency model into effect, Amazon became their agent, not the other way around. Amazon even collected sales tax based on the publisher. It doesn’t make sense that the publisher can’t turn around and hide behind Amazon on this one.
I would like to put together a directory of digital and digital friendly presses for the eBook Evangelist blog. I would also like to feature a publisher once a month for a more in-depth look.
I am currently putting together a questionnaire. Some of the questions are obvious (like niche, genre, territory, etc.). But I am also interested in things like why you formed your own press or knowing what unique point of view your company brings to the table.
So, what I would like to know is what questions would *you* like to be asked? And would you be interested in participating in the directory or an interview? Please let me know in the comments.
If you have been following the reaction to Amazon’s foray into the publishing world, the responses are still coming in. Today, Indie Commerce joins Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and Indigo in boycotting Amazon titles. Interestingly, this article from Paid Content says they’re not – well not exactly, that is.
Mike Shatzkin has a very thoughtful take on the Amazon vs Barnes & Noble saga that I highly recommend reading!
And finally, from Evo Terra (Podiobooks) and Jeff Moriarty’s “It Isn’t Rocket Surgery” broadcast, a rather extreme point of view on the quality of self-published ebooks on Amazon.com. Here’s the video:
I wanted to sit down and write my impressions of the Kindle Fire now that I have had a few days to play with it. Instead, I was shocked to find that Penguin has pulled its Kindle books from the OverDrive system.
Last week Penguin sent notice to OverDrive that it is reviewing terms for library lending of their eBooks. In the interim, OverDrive was instructed to suspend availability of new Penguin eBook titles from our library catalog and disable “Get for Kindle” functionality for all Penguin eBooks. We apologize for this abrupt change in terms from this supplier. We are actively working with Penguin on this issue and are hopeful Penguin will agree to restore access to their new titles and Kindle availability as soon as possible.
The Digital Shift is reporting that Penguin is saying the new policy is not specific to Kindles, but governs all versions of their ebook titles across the board.
Libraries and patrons are telling a different story, however. In an Amazon forum on the subject, some patrons are pointing out that only Kindle versions are disappearing. Some libraries have had as many books vanish from their digital shelves. It is important to note that those are books purchased with library funds (generally taxpayer funded).
I don’t think that it is coincidental that this is happening when Amazon is trying to start a Kindle Owner’s Lending Library. There has been a lot of tension about ebook lending since Big Six publisher Harper Collins limited libraries to only 26 check-outs of their titles. Many people (myself included) are still boycotting Harper Collins until that limitation is resolved.
But to single out the popular Kindle smacks not only of fear and greed, but a form of censorship as well. And that’s not something that sets well with me. Sure, I could read books on one of my other devices: I’ve got an iPod, a Nook. I could read any format on one of the apps on my android tablets. But I will not be told which device I have to read their ebooks on. I already boycott MacMillian and Harper Collins because of their practices. I already boycott books priced over $9.99. I will be happy to add Penguin to the list as well.