Author shuns Amazon award
Allan Ahlberg turns down Amazon-sponsored lifetime achievement award
Children's author Allan Ahlberg has turned down a book prize sponsored by Amazon due to the company's tax avoidance.
The author, best known for classics such as Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum, was due to receive the inaugural "Booktrust Best Book Awards‘ Lifetime Achievement Award", but declined to accept it.
In a public letter sent to the Bookseller last week he name-checked Ethical Consumer saying, "it's [Amazon's] position as “The UK’s No1 Tax Avoider” (Ethical Consumer) that bothers me."
Ahlberg is a literary heavy weight who has written more than 150 children’s books in a career spanning nearly four decades making him one of the most high profile authors yet to speak out against Amazon's tax avoidance.
He described the Booktrust's sponsorship deal with Amazon as a "mistake" and their influence on the book trade as "baleful".
He then went on to say that, "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."
Tim Hunt, Amazon Boycott Campaign coordinator at Ethical Consumer said: "This sends out a really strong message to Amazon and those that work closely with the company that their behaviour, particularly around tax, is unacceptable. People understand the great damage that Amazon are doing to the public purse and the economy in general and we see more and more people taking a stand. We applaud Allan (of which we and our children are big fans) for taking this stand and we hope it inspires others to do the same."
The full text of the letter to the Bookseller reads:
"A few weeks ago I learned that I had been chosen for the inaugural Booktrust Lifetime Achievement Award.
I was, of course, delighted. I told my wife, told my daughter and ran around the house. Then I discovered that the award was sponsored by Amazon and felt obliged to refuse it. The award was to be presented, along with many others, also Amazon- sponsored, at Booktrust’s recent Best Book event.
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.
Booktrust does good work and has a well-deserved reputation. Amazon, via its sponsorship, gets up close to Booktrust and hopes that some of this rubs off. Sadly, I’d say, it also works the other way: Amazon sponsors Booktrust; Booktrust sponsors Amazon, and all of us— writers, illustrators, publishers, judges—get drawn in. For my part, the idea that my “lifetime achievement”— i.e. the books (and all of Janet’s work too)—should have the Amazon tag attached to it is unacceptable.
It’s a miserable business with no easy way out. Amazon’s defence is that it is not breaking any laws, but could Booktrust not have found a more moral sponsor? Could we do without sponsors? “The Shoestring Book Awards”, perhaps, paid for by the book trade itself. Or something, anything, rather than this unhappy entanglement."
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