Today in books: Publishing is sort of kind of dead?; the best books of 2012 are already being crowned; Amazon somehow forgot to pay European taxes; Herman Wouk is still at it.
Publishing hovers between life and death. "How Dead Is the Book Business?" reads the querying headline on Adam Davidson's New York Times Magazine article about the health of today's publishing industry. Which makes us wonder whether death is a matter of degree. Aren't you either dead or not dead (i.e. alive)? Can an organism be, say, 36 percent dead? Anyways, the answer to this specific question is obviously "not dead" (last we checked books are still being bought and sold with legal tender). But Davidson points to many causes for concern, such as the consolidation brought on by Penguin Random House's merger, Amazon's continuing dominance, and uphill struggles to adapt to an increasingly digital future. He predicts that if publishing has any life left, it won't be turning into a monolithic industry dominated by a small number of major plays, but nor will it become a fragmented free-for-all. "Eventually, it’s likely that book publishing will embody both conflicting visions of digital-age commerce," Davidson argues, "lots of small businesses and a few massive ones that handle big-ticket items." [The New York Times Magazine]
Amazon just plumb forgot to pay taxes in Europe. U.K. tax investigators are currently looking into Amazon's books, and aren't happy about what they're finding. Ever since the online retail giant transferred its U.K.-based operations to its Luxembourg outpost in 2006, it has used loopholes to skirt paying U.K. taxes, according to an investigation by The Bookseller's Ian Griffiths. "With such a complex structure it is not surprising that Amazon (and this is according to its own SEC filings) has been under investigation by tax authorities in Germany, France and even Luxembourg as well as the UK," he notes. Indeed, Reuters reported yesterday that France is demanding Amazon pay $252 million in back taxes. [The Bookseller]