The celebrated children’s author Allan Ahlberg, best known for Each Peach Pear Plum written with his late wife Janet, has refused to accept a literary award because it is sponsored by Amazon and urged the publishing industry to have nothing to do with the company.
The inaugural Booktrust Best Book Awards wanted to present the 76-year-old author with a lifetime achievement award in London on 1 July.
It has since emerged that Ahlberg declined the award, saying it was “unacceptable” because of its association with the giant online retailer, criticising Amazon’s tax avoidance in the UK.
The author, who has won numerous awards over his 40-year writing career which has produced more than 150 books, described the firm’s practices as “immoral”.
In a letter to The Bookseller magazine, Ahlberg said: “Tax, fairly applied to us all, is a good thing. It pays for schools, hospitals – libraries! When companies like Amazon cheat: paying 0.1 per cent on billions, pretending it is earning money not in the UK, but in Luxembourg – that’s a bad thing. We should surely, at the very least, say that it is bad and on no account give them any support or, by association, respectability.”
Margaret Hodge, chair of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said in May that shoppers should find alternative places to buy their books after it emerged that Amazon had paid just £4.2 million in tax last year despite selling goods worth £4.3 billion.
The US retailer’s name is prominently displayed on the publicity material for the award and all over its website.
Viv Bird, Booktrust’s chief executive, said the group was “naturally disappointed we could not celebrate Allan’s achievements and his lifetime’s work, but this was his personal decision”.
She added Amazon’s sponsorship “enabled us to celebrate some of the best of children’s literature, create a buzz around books, and make a significant contribution to our mission of encouraging more children to read”.
Amazon did not respond to calls seeking comment.