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E-books

E-books: Developments and Policy Considerations (OECD Insights)

 

Books are undergoing a massive transformation from being a physical object to something electronic, or an “e-book”. And while e-book sales still make up only a small proportion of book sales (1% in most OECD countries, 2-3% in the United Kingdom and 8% in the United States), consumers spent an estimated USD 966 million on them in 2010. By 2015, the industry is anticipated to nearly triple to almost USD 3 billion. Just as notable is the recent dramatic rate of growth in OECD markets for e-books; for example, on 19 May 2011, Amazon announced that its sales of e-books had overtaken sales of all forms of print books combined.

Ongoing policy issues related to e-books include differing tax rates in countries between physical books and e-books, consumer lock-in to specific platforms, limitations on how users can read and share their purchased content, laws prohibiting discounting of e-books, and a lack of transparency about how personal data on reading habits is being used.

Value added tax (VAT) rates for printed books and e-books
Selected countries, 2011

Country

VAT printed book

VAT e-book

Italy

4%

21%

France

5.5%

7%

Germany

7%

19%

United Kingdom

0

20%

Spain

4%

18%

Luxembourg

3%

15%

Sweden

6%

25% if purchased online

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