Week 18/20 – week ending 1 May

Ladybird launches Little Big Moments

Ladybird has launched a new initiative, Little Big Moments, aimed at supporting parents and helping children connect with family members who they can’t currently see. The publisher is sending a pair of matching books to a ‘separated duo’ each day so they can enjoy storytime together via phone or video call.

Ladybird has conducted research which has found that 81.6% of UK parents with nursery aged children said they had or were looking into arranging a few hours of ‘digital babysitting’, giving parents time to deal with work or household chores. 52% of parents said their children would benefit most from online storytelling, and 61% said they are struggling to balance work with homeschooling their children and have enlisted family members to help.

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E-books go VAT free from today

Plans to scrap VAT on e-books have been fast-tracked in a boost to publishers during the coronavirus outbreak, the Chancellor has announced.

Rishi Sunak (pictured) said the zero rate of VAT will now apply to all e-publications from today (1 May 2020) – seven months ahead of schedule – potentially slashing the cost of a £12 e-book by £2.

Sunak said: “We want to make it as easy as possible for people across the UK to get hold of the books they want whilst they are staying at home and saving lives. That is why we have fast tracked plans to scrap VAT on all e-publications, which will make it cheaper for publishers to sell their books, magazines and newspapers.”

The news marks the culmination of the long-running industry campaign to ‘axe the tax’ on ebooks. Stephen Lotinga, ceo of the Publishers Association, said: “We welcome the news that the government has taken this step to significantly fast-track their plans to scrap VAT on ebooks. This is a boost to publishers, readers and authors which is especially important at this difficult time. We hope that it will enable more people to easily access and benefit from the comfort, entertainment and knowledge that books provide.”

According to the government announcement: ‘With the nation staying in their homes during lockdown and schools closed, millions have been relying more on e-publications to pass time, home school and read the news. The Chancellor has opted to bring the zero rating forward to make entertainment more affordable for readers who are rightly staying at home during the coronavirus crisis – and are more reliant on e-publications as a result.

‘The price of an e-book will now be VAT-free. The e-book of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and The Light could be over £2 cheaper while the average tax annual saving on a typical e-newspaper or e-magazine subscription could be £25 or £20 respectively.

‘The move will be a boost both to readers in the form of cheaper e-books and e-newspapers, and the publishing industry who should benefit from a boost in sales.

‘On average publishers are reporting an increase of about a third in e-book consumption during the crisis, with some publishers reporting as much as a 50% increase.’

The announcement was part of a wider package of support for the media, with the government setting out plans to spend £35m over the next three months on adverting in the press to support newspaper publishers.