It’s time for Amazon to start paying sales tax

July 22, 2011 | By | 5 Replies More

America has a long track record or the dangers of monopolies. With the closing of Borders, Amazon is one step closer to becoming a monopoly. At Mother Jones, Kevin Drum makes a strong case that Amazon maintains its position of strength thanks to the fact that it doesn’t collect sales tax.

For all its talk of technology and convenience and selection, Amazon basically stays in business because it can charge slightly lower prices than brick-and-mortar stores. A level playing field might be good for state coffers and the schools and police officers they support, but to Amazon that doesn’t matter. It’s nothing personal, mind you. Just business.

Local bookstores are more than commercial enterprises. They are social institutions, where people meet, share ideas and organize. This pertains especially to independent book sellers, but it occurs at all bookstores because they tend to attract open-minded socially responsible people. If we don’t stop the current trend, the market will be completely dominated by a cyber-bookshop, leaving local communities in the lurch.

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Category: American Culture, Culture, Friendships/relationships

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (5)

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  1. Josh Perry says:

    I have to disagree with book stores being a social gathering place. A couple years ago I went to find a book at Borders and noticed that they had removed all of the tables they originally had in each section. These tables were a place where you could take a book or three, peruse them for maybe an hour, and make a decision on which you felt would be best to learn from.

    I'm sure there were business reasons behind this: people perhaps bought less books that they had time to peruse; perhaps they wanted to drive people to do this in their cafe so that they could generate more revenue. I ended up standing, and sitting on one of the rungs of their stepladder to look through my book that day, and returned maybe twice, though never buying a book.

    Borders was forced out of competition for a couple specific reasons, one that had to do with Amazon, and one that didn't.

    E-readers! Amazon revolutionized the reading world with the Kindle, Barnes and Noble saw the writing on the wall and made a couple of very compelling e-readers themselves. Borders? Nope, they went bankrupt; classic innovator's dilemma.

    Pricing! Yes, brick and mortar stores are more expensive. But are they 6-10% more expensive because of taxes? Not a chance! The books that I usually buy are easily 40-60% cheaper, buying from either Amazon or B&N's own online store.

    On a couple occasions I have bought a book both in-store at B&N, so that I could start reading immediately; and on their own website, to get it for 40% less. When I receive the book ordered online, I returned it – in new condition – with the in-store receipt.

    These brick and mortar stores pray on the impulse buyer, those people who have to have that book the day it comes out, or the day that they hear of it. I usually just buy the book online and wait for it to come in the mail, I'm not in that big of a hurry, and it's worth the 60% discount to wait.

  2. xxx says:

    "On a couple occasions I have bought a book both in-store at B&N, so that I could start reading immediately; and on their own website, to get it for 40% less. When I receive the book ordered online, I returned it – in new condition – with the in-store receipt."

    You are a jerk.

  3. Erika Price says:

    I love bookstores, but I am not saddened to see Borders go. Borders sustained itself (poorly) by peddling self-help tomes, cookbooks, magazines, CDs, popular paperbacks, and overpriced repackagings of classic novels. It failed partly because the market for many of these products has changed: CD sales are in the lurch, magazine and newpaper sales are too, and classic literature SHOULD be free (as it is in the Kindle store).

    Borders and Barnes and Noble (and much of the Kindle store) sold (and sell) light reading with almost no intellectual merit. I can never find the literature, science, or psych books I might actually want to read in such stores, only big, heavy, pretty books low on ideas, art, and evidence. These places are big box retailers more than community staples.

    But we should worry about the fates of local and used bookstores. Thankfully Chicago is positively littered with cheap resale bookstores that stock rare and obscure novels of literary relevance at Amazon-esque prices. These places usually are crawling with interesting learned people and a community flavor; Many of these small nooks host book clubs, readings, open mics, and engaging talks. All I can do is hope that Amazon's ousting of Borders leads more brick-and-mortar customers to local bookstores. Personally, I take advantage of both Kindle and used paperbacks.

  4. Erich Vieth says:

    Erika: I stopped by the going-out-of-business sale at Borders today, and I'm afraid that your description of the kinds of reading materials they carry is accurate. It was not easy to find the tiny section of science books tucked in the corner of the store.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    On the other hand, it appears that McKay's, a small chain of large stores in Tennessee, specializing in used CD;s DVD's Blueray, VHS tapes books and videogames is expanding.

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