Author, actor and comedian Charlie Higson has spoken out against Amazon after this week's revelations that the online retailer charges publishers the full 20 per cent VAT on eBooks in the UK, even though it pays far less in Luxembourg, where it is based.
Higson exclusively told Pocket-lint that the margins offered by Amazon are so small that authors and publishers find it hard to make money on digital editions. He also called into question the morality of the online retailer and manufacturer of the world's most successful eBook reader, the Kindle.
Alluding to the report by The Guardian earlier this week, Higson told us that the company's business model was, if not illegal, certainly immoral.
"Unfortunately, the business model of Amazon is verging on the criminal. They don’t pay tax here, they’re all based overseas because of the way they ship their books," he explained.
"They cut the margins so small that it becomes quite hard for publishers to make money. And for writers to make money. It’s my living selling books."
The Fast Show star and writer of the Young Bond and The Enemy series of novels for teenagers did emphasise to us that he sees a market for digital editions of his books, but condemned the practices of those who sell them.
"It’s fantastic that through [digital editions] more people will read your books and can get access to books if they don’t have a local bookshop or are not normally out looking for books. It is a great way for getting books into people’s hands," he told us. "But, although it’s not illegal what Amazon does, aspects of it seem slightly immoral.
"It makes it very difficult for publishers."
It's an issue that needs to be sorted out, Higson suggested, as both printed and digital formats will thrive if writers and publishers get better treatment from the retailers.
"I think printed books and eBooks will quite happily co-exist side-by-side," he said. "People like books as objects, but they also like the practicality of reading them [on a digital reader and] online.
"There is perhaps a future where you buy a physical book and it also comes with a digital download so you can read it on another format," he added.
Charlie Higson was recently tasked with condensing the plot and theme of each of the 12 full Ian Fleming James Bond novels into 140 characters for Twitter. You can see how he got on by following him at @monstroso.
Picture of Charlie Higson: (cc) nottinghamgamecity