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Author Declines Amazon-Sponsored UK Book Award

allan_ahlberg500_27904t-1[1]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.

The Bookseller

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George July 10, 2014 um 2:34 pm

Is Ahlberg in essence saying, "Let me cut off my nose to spite my face?"

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2014 um 2:35 pm

Not really. Amazon is still selling his books, so this is more of a token gesture than anything.

George July 10, 2014 um 2:37 pm

So, it’s a matter of objecting to how Amazon supposedly does business while still doing business with them.

Nate Hoffelder July 10, 2014 um 2:47 pm


That description also fits many of Amazon’s detractors.

ucfgrad93 July 10, 2014 um 5:01 pm

"We should surely, at the very least, say that it is bad and on no account give it any support or, by association, respectability."

And yet Amazon is selling your books. Typical hypocrite.

The Rodent July 10, 2014 um 3:56 pm

Not the first time someone has declined a literary award for a cause…

George July 10, 2014 um 4:02 pm

Or any award, for that matter. Although it would’ve been more interesting if Ahlberg had pulled a Marlon Brando. 🙂

TheGreatFilter July 10, 2014 um 4:25 pm

"paying 0.1% on billions, pretending it is earning money not in the UK, but in Luxembourg— that’s a bad thing."

Who needs hospitals and schools anyway?

Greg Strandberg July 10, 2014 um 11:32 pm

It’s good to see some people are still putting principles above money. I wish more folks in America were thinking like Ahlberg.

Hayden July 11, 2014 um 2:48 am

I support the author on this one, but I don’t blame Amazon completely for what they are doing. To me, I blame the politicians that allow businesses to move around their income to other states or countries to reduce their taxes. All the big companies do it. Amazon, Apple, Google, etc all have head offices in places like Ireland and Luxembourg where taxes are much lower. Amazon’s minimal tax bill each year means that they have a competitive advantage over local booksellers that have to pay UK taxes.

Amazon may be the biggest one in the UK but there are thousands of companies doing the same thing. The politicians should prevent this from happening

Felipe Adan Lerma July 11, 2014 um 7:56 am

I agree, and who among us wouldn’t / doesn’t / shouldn’t use any legal tax deductions legally available?

Should I not live in Texas, with no state income tax?

Unfair taxation does hurt people locally. And it’s the people’s responsibility to elect someone who will look out for their interests, rather than companies.

But finding someone running on the platform? 🙂

Valentine July 11, 2014 um 5:01 pm

Well, if we keep on spreading the blame around, remember who keeps voting those idiots in the first place.

Robin July 11, 2014 um 5:50 am

I agree with Hayden. It isn’t Amazon who legislates, like other large companies they merely take advantage of any loopholes to increase profits.

Anne July 11, 2014 um 9:25 am

I don’t a penny more in taxes than I believe is required by law. I suspect Ahlberg takes the same approach on his own. If you don’t like the laws that allow legal entities to minimize the amount they pay, get the law changed. It is ridiculous to vilify them, me or anyone else for taking advantage of any breaks allowed.

Paul July 11, 2014 um 10:34 am

Until recently though it was extremely difficult for bookstores (or anyone for that matter) to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

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