I mentioned in the last post that I’d written to the Publishers Association and at the same time I wrote to Mr Dale I wrote to them chasing up a reply to my letter. I’ve now had one and I’ve included it below:
Dear Mr Tattersall,
Thank you for your email to the Publishers Association about the issue of Waterstones and WHSmith removing their e-book sales service from customers outside the UK and Ireland. Please allow me to apologise for the delay in responding to your email.
Publishers want to enable as many people as possible to access their books – after all, selling books to a wide audience is what their business models are based on. It is in every publisher’s interest to ensure that their e-books are available to as many potential customers as possible.
When a book is available for UK customers, the publisher will always have the rights to sell it in the EU. It is not possible to gain UK-only rights, as a result of the regulations governing the EU internal market. Therefore, any book which is legally available for sale in the UK and Ireland through a site such as Waterstones or WHSmith can legally be sold to customers residing in other parts of the EU.
Separate rights arrangements are in place for non-EU countries and may be negotiated country-by-country between the author of the work and publishers.
Many online retailers have been successfully making e-books available to international customers and there are new retailers entering this market all the time. The vast majority of these platforms have systems in place to ensure that the correct currency is displayed for the country in which a customer is resident, that the correct levels of VAT are applied for that particular jurisdiction, and that the geographical location of the customer can be verified.
It may be that Waterstones and WHSmith do not have the appropriate systems in place to able them to ensure that each transaction is appropriately managed for the country in which the customer is resident, meaning that they have had to make a commercial decision about which countries they are able to supply.
As a result, these retailers have taken the decision to halt the sale of e-books to markets other than the UK and Ireland until such time as they have the systems in place to process cross-border tax implications of the sales, to process transactions in local currencies, and also to ensure that they are selling works into countries for which the publisher has the legal right to do so.
Publishers are working with retailers across the board to ensure that e-books and physical books are available to the full range of international audiences and will continue to work towards a solution on this issue with Waterstones and WH Smith.
Head of Policy and Communications
The Publishers Association Limited
29B Montague Street
I think that’s a hmmmmmmmm answer. I’m busy over the next few days but there are some things I’ll be doing over the next weekend to take the matter further.