Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi, declared a new holiday at the end of summer. On August 27, it held a one-day sale that it called a First Amendment Sales Tax Holiday. The store discounted books by seven percent, which is the amount of the state sales tax.
The staff at Square Books came up with the idea in response to the Mississippi state legislature’s decision to remove the sales tax on firearms and hunting supplies during a three-day “Second Amendment Holiday,” which was inaugurated two years ago.
The Square Books promotion was intended to encourage the legislature to consider adding books to future tax holidays and to raise awareness about the importance of free speech. “We think the legislature may agree that a tax free holiday for books would be a great way to celebrate our state’s rich tradition of literature,” said store owner Richard Howorth. “We also enjoyed this opportunity to promote the First Amendment and to remind people of its importance.”
The First Amendment Sales Tax Holiday was a commercial success, increasing the store’s sales by 15 percent over the previous Saturday. “A lot of people said it was the reason they came in the store or decided to buy two books instead of one,” Howorth said.
It was also an effective educational tool. “Staff greeted all customers in the stores, explaining that we were sponsoring a First Amendment sales tax holiday, which gave us a terrific opportunity to engage with people on various levels,” Howorth said. Staff and customers discussed free speech and the irony of tax forgiveness for gun purchases but not for books.
“Many had questions, and when we explained, they smiled and said ‘cool,’” Howorth reported. “Zero negatives that I’m aware of.”
Howorth said Square Books will hold a three-day First Amendment sales tax holiday next year. “We’ll do a lot of pre-sale marketing, and I think it will be much bigger.”