European VAT on Books

Why is Europe’s E-books Policy So Schizophrenic?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

If e-books are books, just like any other, then why all the furor?

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief

VAT on print books and e-books across Europe varies significantly from country to country (see our chart below, in which the UK, with a 20% VAT on e-books is absent). Earlier this month, the European Commission have been issuing notices that seem to be at cross purposes. Yet earlier this month the Commission said it was launching an “infringement procedure” against France (France is currently at 7% on e-books with plans to again reduce it to 5.5%) and Luxemborg (at 3%) for offering lower rates on digital than print titles. This news came only days after top publishers met with the EC, and where Neelie Kroes, the European Commission’s vice president, responsible for Europe’s Digital Agenda, and advocated an open market policy for e-books.

Throughout the past several years the EC has treated e-books like a soap opera, including a “raid” on French publishers in March of last year to investigate price fixing.

The United States has been no better, with the Department of Justice’s case against publishers for collusion in instigating Agency Pricing into a sideshow that does little more than reinforce the false idea in reader’s minds that publishers are “the enemy” and trying to take advantage of them.

If e-books are books, just like any other, then why all the drama?

Of course, it has taken years for many states to force Amazon to comply with local taxation laws, so there’s not likely to be any kind of quick resolution at hand.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A widely published critic and essayist, he serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries.