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Book News: Amazon's Tiny Tax Payment Draws Fresh Scrutiny

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • Amazon's U.K. unit racked up sales of $6.5 billion last year, but only paid $3.7 million in corporate taxes (which is nearly as much as it received in government grants). Why does Amazon.co.uk pay so little? Reuters says it's because "all sales to British customers are routed through a Luxembourg affiliate, Amazon EU Sarl." But The Guardian published an investigation Wednesday suggesting that key business dealings are actually negotiated by executives in the U.K., which would make the company subject to the U.K.'s much higher taxes. The Guardian reports: "A UK publishing executive confirmed that his contract was negotiated on behalf of Amazon EU Sarl, the Luxembourg company, by staff from the British head office in Slough." Amazon's tax policy has long been a subject of controversy in the U.K., but its tax figures released Wednesday prompted a fresh outcry, with Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the Public Accounts Committee, calling it "a joke."
  • For the Poetry Foundation, Afaa Michael Weaver writes about being a black poet abroad: "A black poet needs a largeness, a soul strength the size of parallel worlds, to embrace this United States."
  • E-book sales rose a stunning 44.2 percent, to $3.04 billion, last year, according to figures released by BookStats.
  • Presented without comment: "Cormac McCarthy Flaunts Sexy New Beach Body," from our friends at The Onion.
  • In a great New Yorker essay, A Map of Tulsa author Benjamin Lytal writes about the "stepsister novels" of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Willa Cather: "Fitzgerald's insecurity, it turns out, was a sign that he was on to something. Cather, smarter and more self-aware, knew to recognize that crackle of uncertainty. She knew — as surely Fitzgerald knew deep down — that author and hero are both falling in love with a mirage."
  • New York City's 92nd Street Y shares a rare recording of Dylan Thomas performing in his play Under Milk Wood at its Kaufmann Concert Hall in 1953.
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