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Monday, 09 March 2015 | By Gerry Mulvaney


By Gerry Mulvaney, European Sales Manager, Landa Digital Printing

I have grown used to the sounds of disapproval coming from Mrs. Mulvaney behind the breakfast newspaper, usually in response to a politician’s statement, a government health warning on obesity or alcohol or indeed the latest fashion trends, but I was taken by surprise the other day when the subject of her anger was a European Union decision on value added tax (VAT).

You see she has become an avid Kindle user and up to the end of 2015 the VAT on e-books was levied at the rate applicable to the country where the supplier was domiciled and in the case of Amazon and iTunes, this is Luxembourg where the rate is a lowly 3%. Now from January 2015, new EU legislation requires the VAT to be levied at the rate applicable to the country where the customer is domiciled and in the case of Mrs. Mulvaney this is a UK rate of 20%.

The new rules from the EU will add about £300 million to the UK Government tax revenue in 2015 according to accountants KPMG and unless the price increases are absorbed by Amazon – an unlikely scenario, her book purchases are likely to be quite a bit more expensive in 2015 and she was not happy.

In actual fact this decision could be a boost for book printers because in the case of the UK, VAT is levied at a zero rate on all printed materials so the commercial advantage appears to be passing back to the printed page.

InfoTrends digital printing forecast 2012-2017

Books top the 10 fastest growing applications in production digital print
in Western Europe 2012- 2017

Already the signs are that e-book sales have peaked and the UK bookstore chain Waterstones claimed that Kindle sales at Christmas had all but disappeared while sales of printed books had risen by 5% in December. This seems to have been related to the fact that the book store benefited from a programme of refurbishment and a relinquishing of stock control to the store managers, who can now tailor the offering on the shelves to the interests their local community.

Reversing the trend of e-commerce, Waterstones have also announced plans to open at least twelve new stores across the UK, to provide outlets for the printed versions. Foyles, the London based book store chain, has reported an even more impressive 11% growth at Christmas and suggested that e-book reader sales are in steep decline.

Printed Books or e-Books? Mixed Emotions.

Personally I regard these developments with mixed feelings. Having been in the printing industry for the last forty years, I am hugely encouraged by the signs that physical book sales are on the increase again. Many of my industry colleagues depend for their livelihoods on the production of the printed word, but I have grown accustomed recently to the much reduced weight of my wife’s luggage carried by me across Europe on vacation, attributable to her using a Kindle instead of a mountain of paperback books. It could just be that the bureaucrats in Brussels have undone all my hard work in persuading her to adopt a Kindle for our travels and I will once again be carting a printed library on our European holiday travels.

Suitcase full of books

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