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Bezos to booksellers: No new sales taxes

Jeff Bezos
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos addresses attendees of BookExpo America Thursday in Chicago.  

June 2, 2000
Web posted at: 1:01 PM EDT (1701 GMT)

CHICAGO (AP) -- A message from the head of Amazon.com to all those traditional store owners gathered at BookExpo America: No new sales taxes.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of the online retailer, said Thursday there's no reason companies like his should have to collect sales taxes for purchases outside of its home state of Washington. It's a policy that angers many attending the publishing industry's annual national convention.

"In Washington state, where we have a presence, we get police protection, we get fire protection. We send our kids to local schools. All that stuff happens for us," Bezos told a crowded ballroom of more than a thousand people at McCormick Place. "I don't see why ... since we get no services from North Carolina, that they should be able to force us to collect taxes for them."

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that companies with no physical presence in a state are exempt from collecting sales tax on mail orders from consumers in that state.

On the other hand ...

With online commerce growing rapidly, many traditional "bricks and mortar" merchants, as well as state and local government officials, want some kind of collection system imposed.

Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bezos
Chicago Cubs slugger Sammy Sosa, left, laughs with Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos backstage at BookExpo America. The two were discussing Sosa's upcoming book "Sosa: An Autobiography."  

The American Booksellers Association, which represents thousands of independent stores around the country, has been a leading opponent of the sales tax exemption.

"He's not permitting a level playing field," Andy Weinberger, co-owner of independent retailer Reader's Books in Sonoma, California, said of Bezos.

In other remarks Thursday, Bezos said e-commerce probably won't take over the marketplace, predicting that 10 years from now, only about 15 percent of sales would take place online.

"The physical world is still the best medium ever invented," Bezos said. "We are a gregarious species."

Some independent owners were upset that Bezos had been invited to speak at BookExpo America, which ends Sunday. But he was well received Thursday, as many in the audience laughed at his self-deprecating stories about Amazon.com's early days and his jokes about the company's well-publicized failure to turn a profit.

"Independent booksellers have to realize that the industry is about more than just independent bookselling," said Chuck Robinson, owner of Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, and a past president of the ABA. "He's an important part of the industry and he should be heard from."

Copyright 2000   The Associated Press. All rights reserved.



RELATED STORIES:
Amazon.com founder faces criticism at BookExpo
May 31, 2000
E-books a focus at annual BookExpo America
May 29, 2000

RELATED SITES:
BookExpo America
Amazon.com
American Booksellers Association

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