In different circumstances it would be a huge cause for celebration. The same Tory government that has for years ignored pleas for digital books to be taxed the same as print books, and ignored an EU directive allowing VAT on ebooks to be removed, has finally announced it will do just that.

From December 1 2020 ebooks will be effectively exempted from VAT – a move that will slash ebook prices by 20%.

N.B. As The Bookseller observes, the UK Chancellor’s Budget statement specifically mentions ebook rather than digital books, so as this post goes live we are not entirely certain if digital audiobooks are covered by this move.

But let’s get back to the important thing here: Why December 1?

At a unique moment of national and international crisis, on the day the WHO officially declared a pandemic, when printed books and sellers of printed books face unprecedented disruption to their supply chain, with print imports from China at a standstill, consumers wary of venturing out to stores, the possibility of lockdown, many workers facing loss of income, and online print sales impacted by all these…

At a time when digital is uniquely positioned to allow authors, publishers and consumers to circumvent these challenges…

Why, why, why did the British government not employ some joined-up thinking and common sense and make the VAT change effective immediately?