Between the Covers: what's really going on in the world of books

 

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The Independent Culture

Already called a halt to Stoptober? Bristled through Movember? Looking for a new reason to spend a month depriving yourself of something you didn’t really want to do that much anyway, in aid of a good cause? Well Amazon Anonymous has just the thing for you: the Amazon-Free Challenge, which lasts for the month of December and feels even more virtuous than growing a moustache for charity. Already, more than 85,000 people have signed up to “help Amazon break the bad habits” by voting with our Christmassy pounds - potentially millions of them.

Amazon Anonymous was set up in the wake of a change.org petition which collected more than 55,000 signatures calling for Amazon to pay its workers a living wage. Its website focuses on a handful of INSERT: alleged Amazon issues: not offering its workers decent pay or working practices; not paying enough UK corporation tax; and putting excessive pressure on bookshops and publishers: “[approaching] small publishers the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle”, as Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos put it. Summaries of each issue can be found at http://www.amazonanonymous.org/

As far back as 2012, Margaret Hodge MP, as chair of the Public Accounts Committee, called Amazon’s activities not illegal but “immoral”, having discovered the company, “in different ways, siphoning the profits out of the UK to low-tax jurisdictions”. By finding legal ways to wriggle out of some of its taxes, Amazon avoids paying for the upkeep of the roads on which its books are delivered, and the education and healthcare of its workers. So those books that seem so cheap are kind of subsidised by you, the UK taxpayer. Buying them is a little bit like feeding the hand that bites you.

It would be nice if the government would hurry up and close those loopholes, but changing tax policy seems to be as slow as turning around an Amazon juggernaut, so in the meantime, shoppers must do what we think is for the best.

The Independent on Sunday’s books section supports the Amazon-Free Challenge, and invites its readers to rediscover the joy of the high street bookshop, with its knowledgeable staff and serendipitious discoveries. Failing that, discover the joy of free delivery from online bookshops including waterstones.com, or check out www.bestbookprice.co.uk. Be the gazelle that bites back.

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