Did you know? Amazon sales tax collection policy, Kindle eBook loaning

[“Did you know?” is a category of posts I’m starting in which I will share things about the use of media and media-related technology that I run across that seem like I should have known, but didn’t.]

Amazon already collects sales tax on some items: If you use or follow news about Amazon, you know they have spent the past 15 years in hand-to-hand combat against any state that wants them to collect sales tax. You may know also those wars are winding down as Amazon will likely have a distribution center in every zip code before too long. (That last part was a joke, sorta.) While the company will start collecting sales tax in states in the next year or so, for some products (and in several states), the company already does. Here’s a page that details the crazy patchwork of policies they follow. Note that the major book publishers require Amazon to collect sales tax — an obvious attempt to support bricks and mortar retailers (from Walmart to the local independents) who collect sales tax. [Later: See note below.] For the record, I am a regular customer of Amazon and the company is a major employer in my home state of Tennessee and nearby locations in Kentucky. However, I believe the company should be required to collect state sales tax and am glad this issue will go away soon.

You can loan (some) Kindle eBooks: While I am a heavy reader of eBooks that I purchase through the Amazon Kindle store, I don’t like being prevented from loaning a Kindle encrypted-version book to a friend the way I would a physical book. At least for members of my family, I can share books by allowing them into my account for access to books via the “cloud reader” and I share with my family members in a way that maxes out the number of devices attached to my account. (By the way, this in-family use of the account and books purchased is completely legal — or should be. Note: I am not a lawyer, but I am an expert on what I think should be legal.) However, did you know that with a sub-set of Kindle eBooks, you can lend the title to anyone for 14 days? And when I say sub-set, I mean small subset. Don’t expect to find many titles from the big publishers.

You can also borrow eBooks: Since I mentioned lending eBooks, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you should check with your local library to see if they have an eBook lending program. A good place to start is the search page of Overdrive, the company that is the major provider of the service that enables libraries to lend ebooks. Note, however: the Overdrive service is clunky but at least, you now can read books borrowed there on your Kindle and, you guessed it, big publishers hate it. It works like regular library books: A library can lend only so many copies at a time and you have a limited time window for reading the book.

Bonus link: GalleyCat.com: “How to Return a Kindle eBook” [via: a friend]

Later: One of my go-to sources of insight into book publishing practices disagreed with my interpretation of the sales tax requirements of the publishers — but my sidebar slap of the publishers still stands, but not precisely how I stated it. I’m told that the sales tax collection is a by-product of the agency pricing model. If the publishers are using Amazon as an agent to sell books, and not a retailer through which the book is sold, then the publisher is responsible for collecting taxes. As there are still some legal miles to travel before this is all resolved…and as, bottomline, agency pricing and its resulting sales tax policies, is related to my opinion, I’ll let it stand. I’ll note again, however, that in this case, I agree with the publishers: Amazon should collect sales tax.

[Do you know of something that may be of help or insight to the rest of us? Add a comment below. If you have suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered in future Did you Know posts, email me: rexhammock (at) gmail (dot) com and include the word “rexblog” in your subject line.]