BTW News Briefs [4]

NRF Urges Passage of Internet Sales Tax Bill

On December 6, a witness testifying on behalf of the National Retail Federation urged a congressional committee to approve sales tax simplification legislation (The Sales Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2007, H.R. 3396) that would make it easier to require Internet merchants, mail-order houses, and other "remote sellers" to collect sales tax across state lines.

"We are here to ask you to level the playing field between sellers that collect sales tax and those who cannot be required to collect the tax because they do business in the community on a virtual rather than physical basis," J.C. Penney Corporation Inc. Vice President and Associate General Counsel-Tax Wayne Zakrzewski said. Zakrzewski testified before the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law during a hearing on H.R. 3396. "Many of our competitors do not collect, which gives them a competitive advantage. This is not because they are innovative or provide incremental value to the consumer, but because the states do not have the ability to require collection of a tax that is due from the consumer."

Zakrzewski continued, "We believe there are compelling reasons why Congress should act now to level the playing field. Passage of H.R. 3396 into law would be the appropriate next step to a modern, fair and responsive sales tax system across all participating states and sellers." In addition to putting local businesses at a disadvantage, the lack of sales tax collection forces state and local governments to increase other taxes to make up for the lost revenue, ultimately impacting consumers, he said.

Judge Denies Bookstores' Legal Standing in Harmful to Minors Challenge

Earlier this week, a federal judge ruled that The King's English and Sam Weller's Zion Bookstore, among other local information distributors, do not have the legal standing necessary to participate in a lawsuit regarding the Utah Harmful to Minors Act, as reported by the Deseret Morning News. However, while denying standing to six local plaintiffs, including the bookstores, the judge affirmed the standing of the other eight plaintiffs, which includes the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression (ABFFE). Furthermore, the King's English and Weller's will continue to participate in the case as members of ABFFE.

The Utah law seeks to restrict children's access to material on the Internet, but groups filing the challenge argue that the law is overly broad and imposes severe content-based restrictions on the availability, display, and dissemination of constitutionally protected speech on the Internet.

Efforts by the Utah attorney general to have the case dismissed were denied by the judge.

NACS Foundation Provides Grant to Caravan Project

On December 4, the NACS Foundation, the charitable branch of the National Association of College Stores (NACS), announced that it would provide a $25,000 grant to the Caravan Project [5], a partnership of publishers, booksellers, and libraries. The grant would support the establishment of programs in college stores that would enable consumers to access digital, downloadable, and large-print books on demand and will enable the Caravan Project to assist booksellers -- like college stores -- in obtaining tools and understanding of how to sell books on demand in any format from a digital source. The grant will support the development of both education and marketing materials stores can use to participate in the Caravan Project.

Cengage Learning to Acquire Houghton Mifflin College Assets

On December 3, Stamford, Connecticut-based Cengage Learning announced that it has signed an agreement with Houghton Mifflin Company whereby Cengage Learning will acquire the assets of the Houghton Mifflin College Division (HM College) for $750 million in cash. The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2008 upon satisfaction of regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Cengage Learning, formerly Thomson Learning, is a provider of print and digital instructional and reference materials for the higher education and library reference markets. Cengage expects the addition of the HM College assets to significantly expand and complement the company's range of textbooks, study guides, custom publications, and digital solutions that it provides to professors and students in two- and four-year colleges and universities. Under a long-term agreement that will be executed at closing of the transaction, Cengage and Houghton Mifflin will cooperate to expand the distribution of Cengage's college textbooks and related materials into the U.S. high school market, with particular emphasis on Advanced Placement and Honors programs.

Bookseller's Work Named "Best Western Comic Book" of the Year

True West Magazine has picked Desperadoes: Buffalo Dreams, written by Jeff Mariotte and illustrated by Alberto Dose (IDW Publishing), as the "Best Western Comic Book" of the last year. Mariotte is co-owner of San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy bookstore with his wife, Maryelizabeth Hart, and Southern California Independent Booksellers Association President Terry Gilman.

"Desperadoes is that rare comic that somehow keeps the old with the new and the cool," said True West. "On some levels, this is the classic Western tale that we all love, while on others, it is almost a spiritual tale of modern sensibilities. Alberto Dose brings this hard-to-put-down comic to life with his illustrations, while Jeff Mariotte's stories hold equal appeal to both the Westerns fan and the comic fanatic."

Mike Jones Joins Keen Communications

Mike Jones, most recently director of sales and marketing at Graphic Arts Center Publishing in Portland, Oregon, is enjoying a homecoming. On December 3, Jones joined Keen Communications (Menasha Ridge Press and Clerisy Press) as director of special sales. He served as associate publisher at Menasha Ridge Press in Birmingham, Alabama, for 10 years before becoming publisher at Wilderness Press in Berkeley, California. Jones will continue to work and live in Portland while servicing the two Keen Communications offices, Menasha Ridge Press in Birmingham and Clerisy Press in Cincinnati, Ohio.