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image A four-percent tax on digital music and perhaps e-books? That’s the proposal from New York Gov. David Paterson. Oh, great. Isn’t this exactly what we need to encourage literacy and new technology? The possible e-book tax would directly or indirectly hurt people ranging from writers and publishers to corporations such as Adobe—which just laid off 600 workers.

The New York insanity, if enacted into law, could lead to more taxes of this ilk in other states and add to expenses for small e-booksellers. It could even encourage piracy by jacking up costs for legitimate buyers.

As a writer and e-book reader, I challenge the International Digital Publishing Forum and the Association of American Publishers—both with many members in New York—to speak up if they haven’t already. Alas, the IDPF in the past failed to protest when Europe countries passed discriminatory taxes against e-books. No need to search for contact information for Paterson, by the way.

TeleRant—with other views welcomed

So how might New York and other cash-strapped states raise much-needed money? Well,  I’d love to see politicians at both the federal and state levels truly sock it to billionaires and the very richest multimillionaires—campaign contributions notwithstanding. We’re talking about rich-rich, not your garden-variety Millionaire Next Door.

TeleRead is is an e-book blog rather than a political blog, but I can’t resist since government policies can affect e-books along with everything else. The top one percent of U.S. households, billionaires included, possessed 33 percent of wealth in 2001. I wouldn’t be surprised if the distribution were even more skewed today. Same for income distribution. Like it or not, the mega-rich can each read only one e-book at a time. Better for e-books and other objects of discretionary spending if the United States is less of a banana republic. I’m a capitalist, but enough is enough. Grotesque income inequalities can hurt even the rich by reducing the market for the wares their companies make or sell—e-book gizmos included.

What do you think? Agree or disagree? What’s more, I’d welcome thoughts from people outside the States—on both income distribution and download/e-book taxes.

Details on the proposed tax: InformationWeek and others mentioned in Google News Roundup, as well as CNET.

The situation outside New York, as summed up in the Christian Science Monitor: “Currently, 17 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws in place, according to CNET. Politicians in Massachusetts, Wyoming, and Washington are weighing their own bills.” Time for the IDPF and AAP to speak up in those cases, too? If the much-hated RIAA wants to win points among consumers, it, too, would do well to join the fray and fight download taxes of all kinds.

 
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