A fiery Jeanette Winterson has called for the hundreds of millions of pounds of profit which Amazon, Starbucks and Google were last week accused of diverting from the UK to be used to save Britain’s beleaguered public libraries.
In an impassioned speech at the British Library this evening, the award-winning author of Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit said: “Libraries cost about a billion a year to run right now. Make it two billion and charge Google, Amazon and Starbucks all that back tax on their profits here. Or if they want to go on paying fancy lawyers to legally avoid their moral duties, then perhaps those companies could do an Andrew Carnegie and build us new kinds of libraries for a new kind of future in a fairer and better world?”
I have no view on Google’s tax arrangements save to observe that, as with Starbucks, those that do not like the way these companies do their business should lobby for the law to be changed rather than complain that Google et al are (one presumes) acting within the law.
Anyway, Winterson’s argument is still very odd. Because, even before it began to digitise millions of books, isn’t Google essentially, well, just a very large library? Just the kind of new library, in fact, that Winterson demands it be.
(And Amazon, of course, is the best bookshop any of us have ever had the opportunity to use.)