How VATMOSS fundamentally misunderstands the nature of direct e-sales

I’ve spent the weekend getting a few things about the new EU regulations on e-commerce clarified in my own mind, reading a range of online resources and also various bits of EU regulation and legislation.

Digital products as ebooks, training and self-help manuals or guides, craft patterns, digital art, photograph or music files are now defined as ‘services’ on an equal footing with cloud data storage, online marketplaces, web hosting and online games. Not the process of selling ebooks and music etc. The actual digital file itself is now a ‘service’ even though in most cases that sale will be a simple one-off transaction.

So there’s a fundamental and massive misunderstanding, or ignorance of, how small-scale direct e-commerce works. All the legislation refers to electronic service providers and specifically defines ebook sales as ‘like Amazon Kindle.’ Now, I would certainly agree that signing up for Kindle (or Nook or Google Play), qualifies as buying an electronic service. It means downloading their app software to your device, and buying books as well as paying for the ongoing benefits of cloud storage, the ability to re-download titles, to read those books on other equipment, so on and so forth.

This is wholly different to buying an ebook direct from a writer or a small press. That is a one-off transaction to purchase a digital file – nearly always DRM free these days – with no ongoing relationship expected or implied.

And obviously, the same is true for such small-scale purchases of knitting patterns, music, artwork, photos, how-to-guides, the list goes on and on…

I’ve also been talking to pals with successful campaigning experience and they all say working with an umbrella group is the most effective way to get press notice and to apply legislative pressure. So I though I would see about getting one underway.

I’m aiming to get together as many microbusinesses as I can – the part time, retired, carers, evening and weekend traders for whom small-scale e-commerce has offered a financial lifeline as well as the local businesses for whom selling e-products has offered a new income stream and promotional opportunities alongside their other activities.

Please check out the Digital Microbusiness Action Group if all this affects you. No fees, no obligations, no pack drill – I’m simply looking to get a viable number of folk together so we can speak with a single voice.

I can now refer to ‘we’ after getting ten sign-ups overnight – phew.

Oh, and why am I doing this? Well, I had a fair bit of time between now and Christmas allocated in my diary for preparing the next series of my backlist novels as ebooks. Since VATMOSS looks likely to shut the small e-press who’ve published my ebooks, I figure I may as well spend my time attempting to do something positive.

And now this blog will (hopefully) return to more normal content!


  1. Thanks for your alerts on Twitter and your work on collating all the information. How can I join the action group? Lele

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