Noted children’s author Allan Ahlberg is getting some attention today for a letter posted on The Bookseller. Ahlberg was up for the Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award. He was going to be the first to receive the award from the UK literacy charity Booktrust, but he is declining the award as a protest against the award’s sponsor: Amazon.
Citing Amazon’s ongoing contract dispute with Hachette and Amazon’s compliance with UK tax laws, Ahlberg says in his letter:
The Amazon sponsorship deal is a mistake. Amazon’s baleful influence on the British book trade is frequently referred to—see also what’s happening with Hachette in America—but it is its position as “The UK’s No1 Tax Avoider” (Ethical Consumer) that bothers me.
Tax, fairly applied to us all, is a good thing. It pays for schools, hospitals—libraries! When companies like Amazon cheat—paying 0.1% 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 it any support or, by association, respectability.
For the record, in 2013 Amazon paid just £4.2m in the UK on sales of £4.3bn.
In a response to Ahlberg’s letter, Booktrust CEO Viv Bird expressed disappointment with Ahlberg ‘s decision but noted that “this was his personal decision.” She added: “Booktrust works with a wide range of partners in order to fulfil our charitable aim of bringing books to children and children to books. We are also grateful for the tremendous support we get from many eminent authors and illustrators. Amazon’s sponsorship of the Best Book Awards, in its inaugural year, 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.”
In addition to the award, Ahlberg is turning down the £5,000 prize money which went with it. I don’t have any info on who will be getting the award in his place.