back to article JK Rowling's adult novel arrives on ebook full of FAIL

JK Rowling's first novel not to feature young bespectacled wizard Harry Potter was released on Wednesday, following a massive marketing campaign that effectively shrouded The Casual Vacancy in mystery before its debut on bookstore shelves. But it didn't all go according to plan, after the ebook version of the 506-page tome was …


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  1. TRT Silver badge


    Don't auto-delete my digital first edition which is made all the more rare by the publishers errors!

    Mind you, I need a new Kindle after she scribbled her autograph over the screen with a Sharpie(tm).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Noooo!!!

      I realise you're being tongue in cheek but you raise the point that even if the error prone first addition digital copy were indeed to become a rarity it would still be worthless as you'd only paid for a license to read it, you wouldn't actually own anything to sell on.

  2. Another User

    ITunes/iBook edition not affected?

    I did not notice anything strange with the ITunes/iBook edition of this book. As I preordered it I should have

    received the book right after it was released.

    1. solidsoup

      Re: ITunes/iBook edition not affected?

      "... were greeted with flaws relating to the ability to adjust margins and font colour and size"

      Would it a stretch to conclude they got a physical book instead of digital one and weren't sure how it works?

      1. John Bailey

        Re: ITunes/iBook edition not affected?

        Don't joke.. That happened to me once. I had to being it back to the shop, because I couldn't find a charging cable to fit it. Who knew they came pre charged.

  3. Piloti


    ""But as some have noted, the steep cost of the ebook shouldn't be blamed on Rowling: It's the taxman's fault in Brussels.""

    Which is ironic really as Amazon is not registered in the UK, but in the tax haven in Luxembourg, which means it pays not Corporate tax in Blighty.

    1. dogged

      Re: Tax

      Corporation tax-dodging does not help with VAT.

      1. Colin Miller

        Re: Tax

        > Corporation tax-dodging does not help with VAT.

        Actually, can't they pay the VAT at Luxembourgish rate?

        1. dogged

          Re: Tax

          > Actually, can't they pay the VAT at Luxembourgish rate?

          Not if they're selling in the UK, no.

          1. Phil Endecott

            Re: Tax

            > > Actually, can't they pay the VAT at Luxembourgish rate?

            > Not if they're selling in the UK, no.

            Yes they can, on digital downloads. Not on physical goods though.


      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: Tax

        It does, because they pay Luxembourg VAT on ebooks, which is 5% rather than 20% over here.

        1. Andrew Baines Silver badge

          Re: Tax

          It's Luxembourg tax that's paid, not UK. Really annoying if you're a business user as Amazon will neither issue a VAT refund or, more correctly, zero rate the VAT. Apparently, Kindles are not allowed to be used for business use, if you complain, you're breaking the Terms and conditions. They can then delete all your books.

          Next time, I'm buying a Kobo.

    2. Leigh Brown

      Re: Tax

      And nobody has noted that even though the eBook does not have a hardcover (or any paper or cardboard of any description), it is priced at the hardcover price until the paperback comes out?

      1. Leigh Brown

        Re: Tax

        or rather the same differential exists. Oh, to be able to edit my posts.

      2. jai

        Re: Tax

        and 20% on £11.99 is only a couple of quid.

        So if it was tax free, they'd be charging us £9.59, which you just know they'd round up to £9.99 anyway.

        The lack of a physical product to print, combine into a book and ship to distributors _must_ save the publishing companies more than just 2 quid a book doesn't it?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward


          Incorrect. Come on, this couldn't really be an easier percentage.

          *£10* + VAT @20% = £12.

          The price before VAT *IS* £9.99.

          Not "£9.59". You're doing the wrong calculation.

          Common sense really, as it's obvious that 9.59x1.2 != 11.99

          I suppose you work in computers? I just hope it's not anything to do with money.

    3. Bill B
      Thumb Down

      Re: Tax

      The bit on tax is a misdirection. I've just looked at amazon (not because I want to buy the book, just i dislike ebook pricing ripoffs in general);

      The Hardcover price is £9; Kindle is £11.99

      20% VAT on £9 is £10.80. So the Kindle price is not a tax price, it's a rip off price.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. A J Stiles

      Re: Poppers.

      Modern practice is always to specify the oxidation state explicitly where a substance can exist in several. So one would write what used to be "nitrate" as "nitrate (V)", and what used to be "nitrite" as "nitrate (III)". So one could quite legitimately write "pentyl nitrate (III)" ("amyl" also being discouraged).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Cameron Colley

      Re: Poppers.

      I've seen poppers labelled as amyl nitrate, alkyl nitrate, amyl nitrite and alkyl nitrite as well as a couple of others I forget (Wikipedia suggests butyl versions). So, perhaps the Torygraph writer took their information from the ingredients list of the product. You can hardly blame someone for that, especially given the tendency of nomenclature to change over the decades.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Poppers.

      Useless fact:

      Poppers are also the antidote to cyanide poisoning

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Poppers.

        Really? Prove it.

        1. Mike Flugennock

          Re: Poppers.

          Really? Prove it...

          Hey, find us a secret agent and you'll find out.

          1. Cameron Colley

            @sequester Re: Poppers.

            Well, I have a paper textbook that backs that one up too. I believe its use as a sexual stimulant is due to the increased blood flow through [into] sexual organs and the relaxation of the anal sphincter -- hence its use being more prevalent in the gay scene (from what I can gather).

            I take it, though, that The Torygraph are referring to the feeling of dizziness and the thumping in the temples it produces as well as the felt increase in heart rate. However, I'd love to think they were, instead, referring to Stephen Fry's description of Dan Brown's canon.

    4. sequester

      Re: Poppers.

      It's especially amusing since amyl nitrite apparently leads to "relaxation of involuntary muscles, especially […] the anal sphincter".

      Source is Wikipedia, so take your pinch of salt with that piece of totally necessary info.

  5. Rufus

    3% VAT

    But Luxembourg are only charging 3% VAT on eBooks - just 35p of the £11.99 price!



    1. deive

      Re: 3% VAT

      VAT is what consumers pay - not businesses. As a consumer in the UK we have to pay 20%. The businesses job is to pass this 20% on to the government where bought, so in this case Amazon will be giving that 20% direct to our government. This has nothing to do with Luxembourg.

      The VAT on ebooks and not on books issue is annoying though.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: 3% VAT

        "The VAT on ebooks and not on books issue is annoying though."

        Going by the current state of European economies, which is the more likely to happen to balance the situation

        a) Remove VAT on eBooks

        b) Put VAT on "real" books.

      2. jonathanb Silver badge

        Re: 3% VAT

        If you buy from a Luxembourg company, you pay Luxembourg VAT, not UK VAT.

      3. Simple Simon

        Re: 3% VAT


        Under EU VAT law, for "Business to Consumer" transactions, and where the deliverable is "not physical" (eg. services, software, or electronic books), the VAT is charged where the vendor is based. In the case of Amazon (and iTunes, and the rest) that's Luxembourg. The VAT on electronic books (and anything else a consumer in the UK downloads from Amazon, iTunes and the rest) goes to Luxembourg, not to the UK.

        For "Business to Business" transactions, and where the deliverable is "not physical", the VAT is charged where the purchaser is based. So, as a business purchaser, if you can demonstrate to the vendor of "non physical" items that you are indeed a business and are VAT registered, they should not charge Luxembourg VAT (and you will instead have to account for the VAT on your UK VAT return). However, try telling that to iTunes, Amazon and the rest...

        For all transactions where the deliverable is "physical" (eg. a piece of hardware you bought from Amazon), the VAT is charged where the purchaser is based. Which means that, if a consumer buys a physical DVD of a piece of software from Amazon, they pay UK VAT, and if they buy a download of the same piece of software, from the same vendor, they pay Luxembourg VAT.

        Oh, and BTW, if you've paid Luxembourg VAT, you can't claim it back on your UK VAT return.

        Great, aint it?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 3% VAT

          And the simple solution is to pirate it.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    i'll read it at christmas when the daily fail gives it away free

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    All the characters are secretly based on Harry Potter.

    Not Harry Potter characters, I mean every character in this new book is just Harry Potter with a different accent. Somebody needs to expose this.

  8. Efros

    I wonder

    If the flaws were in the inevitable torrented versions.

    1. Soruk

      Re: I wonder

      No, the publisher just did a Hachette-job on it.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: I wonder

        "No, the publisher just did a Hachette-job on it."

        Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

  9. frank ly

    re. "...but ebooks are classified differently because they are subjected to VAT."

    No. Ebooks are subject to VAT because they are classified differently. (i.e not zero-rated)

  10. Eponymous Cowherd

    Another eBook rip-off

    Do these people, seriously, want their stuff pirated. An e-book that costs £2 more than the hardback, and it has formatting errors?

    eBooks have a lower intrinsic value than paper books because the cannot be loaned, sold on, or even given away, so trying to fleece people without even doing basic quality control is nothing more than profiteering.

    1. Chris Parsons

      Re: Another eBook rip-off

      Agreed. I look at the price of the eBook, then see if anyone is flogging it secondhand. I just got a hardback version of AN Wilson's The Victorians, in 'as new' condition for £2.67 including postage. Kindle edition, £7.31. I love the idea of eBooks, but I'm far too mean to pay these ridiculous prices.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another eBook rip-off

      Bloody well can with Calibre software!!

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Efros

      Re: Another eBook rip-off

      I've seen some Adobe DRMed digital editions which you are not allowed to read aloud.

  11. mark1978

    The government should either put VAT on books to 20% or zero rate e-books. Having two different rates is silly indeed.

  12. DZ-Jay

    Adult novel?

    Is that "adult" as in "adult entertainment," or as in "for grown ups."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Adult novel?

      "adult" as in the only group of people guaranteed to be able to afford the bloody stupid prices being asked for it.

      1. Amonynous

        Re: Adult novel?

        Neither, since it's not another "50 Sheds of Grey" homage but nonetheless will draw its readership from the same demographic, i.e. people who are old enough to know better but don't, due to their average reading age being somewhere south of 14.

        1. Petrea Mitchell

          "50 Sheds of Grey"?

          Actually that *does* sound rather like the English country version of "50 Shades of Grey"...

        2. Anonymous Hero
          Thumb Down

          Re: Adult novel?

          "people who are old enough to know better but don't, due to their average reading age being somewhere south of 14."

          I think you're being totally unfair and a typical book snob. Anything that gets people who've never read a book since their last english lesson in school reading again is always a good thing. I wonder how many people have (re)-discovered the joy of books, and have since read other stuff, I bet it's quite a few. It doesn't have to be high brow but at least they're reading which is better than not.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. roy lovelock

    try the audiobook

    i was suprised with the digital copy price, but i have subs to audible and it worked out to around £4 (there abouts) for the audiobook on my yearly membership.

    ive all but given up purchasing books in the conventional way as audible makes it a lot cheaper and it less effort!!!

  14. banjomike

    Most ebooks have stupid errors in them...

    ... even books that have been around for years. The Day of the Triffids has scores of formatting errors, wrong words, and god knows what. Complaining never does any good.. Unless the book is by J.K.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Most ebooks have stupid errors in them...

      you ain't seen nothing yet, my copy of the Day of the Triffids in Polish, dated c. 1974, seemed all perfect, until I got hold of the original (2nd hand), and something didn't quite look right. Finally, more by trial and error than on purpose, I got it. In the Polish version, the author says (as I remember vaguely):

      ... over the Atlantic, the fighters of a Superpower (or something to that effect) shot down the plane..."

      While the good old UK paperback said:

      ... over the Atlantic, the Soviet fighters... (and there were further two pages in English on the Soviet theme, which were simply deleted from the translation).

      There! ;)

      1. banjomike

        Re: Most ebooks have stupid errors in them...

        Those same edits were originally in the USA edition. Also missing is the doctor who commits suicide at the start of the book and anything that makes the Russians sound intelligent.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. toadwarrior

    That's pretty expensive for something, it sounds like, isn't that good. I'm not surprised she's considering doing a director's edition of one or many harry potter books. It's sounding like may be a one trick pony.

  16. JaitcH
    Thumb Down

    £11.99 you say? Not ...

    in Bittorrent versions.

    Save trees, don't buy the paper version, it's such a waste when you thorw this formuleic book were it belongs ... in the garbage can.

    1. DaddyHoggy

      Re: £11.99 you say? Not ...

      Given that you can't spell and are a grammatical dunce, even if you had read it in the two days it has been out, which I doubt, you probably thought it was rubbish because it had big words and no pictures to colour in.

    2. mumm-ra

      Re: £11.99 you say? Not ...

      "it's such a waste when you thorw this formuleic book were it belongs ... in the garbage can"

      Oh, you're back and conforming to type- you're like Obviously's older and marginally more attractive brother. I suspect that most people will be loathe to accept literary criticism from someone unable to even *spell* "formulaic".


  17. Keep Refrigerated


    I put on my robe and wizard hat.

  18. Trev 2

    I do wonder if it was deliberate...

    I am wondering if it was a deliberate way to partly defeat the pirates by releasing a broken version, that gets pirated immediately with the same broken files will be copied over and over, and then release the fixed one.

    That way most people downloading an illegal version will find it doesn't work and some might go buy it instead?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I do wonder if it was deliberate...

      Want to take bets on whether the 'crowd corrected' original edition is better formatted/edited than the revised official version?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Anonymous Coward

    > but ebooks are classified differently because they are subjected to VAT.

    I guess VAT must be about 800% these days is it?

  20. Mage Silver badge

    Adult Book?

    I've been assured it's a book for Adults and not an Adult book

  21. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Must be really high VAT...

    To make an ebook worth about 2 quid cost 12 quid.,

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sounds like someone's getting a new boat out of this.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm rather surprised that so many of the posters here have read the book already.

    I mean, they must have to be so sure of its quality, right?


  24. Dick Kennedy

    VAT BS

    This excuse about VAT driving the cost of ebooks up is nonsense. Yes, VAT must be charged. But the ex-VAT cost of the ebook should be much lower to start with. There's no printing, no raw materials, no distribution costs (shipping and storage), no pulping of unsold copies, etc etc. The production cost of ebooks is a tiny fraction of that of print books. This is about publishers gouging the public.

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: VAT BS

      There is a good deal of information about the work involved in publishing a book, and the costs, at Charlie Stross on publishing

  25. Robert E A Harvey

    Sod the eBook

    Is Emma Watson going to do the film?

  26. mark 63 Silver badge

    "printed books, maps and charts, magazines and newspapers, are zero-rated"

    so "Hello","Closer" and other such mind rotting brainless drivel is VAT exempt but anything worthwhile, if electronic, isnt?


    Sack the minister for Dragging-Our-Arses-Out-of-the-20th-Century

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ebook prices

    are rigged, because believe it or not, ebook sales form only a fraction of all book sales, this wont always be the case and when competition arrives prices will tumble.

    lets take the physical book, how much is it? you all keep talking about it being only a couple of quid cheaper in ebook format, but the actual RRP, printed on the back of the book is £20, how many shops actually sold it at that price? sweet bugger all, on that £20 the retailer is looking at a margin of around 60%

    retailers wil drop the price to a minimum only if they will sell the units to make up for the loss of margin. Ebooks are no different, margins are everything unless unit sales can make up for it, at the moment because unit sales are quite low you wont find many retailers selling it very cheap, but give it a year and I can promise you, if ebook readers take off big time, then the prices will tumble, just like real books

  28. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Laaaame ebook pricing

    As jai already says, a 20% VAT (although high) is no excuse for this cost. EBook publishing costs very little (I'm not going to say "it costs nothing" because there's still labor costs to make sure the EBook looks good and all that...) EBook publishers know this and typically kick back a much higher percentage of the cost to the publisher compared to paper publishing (which really is quite expensive, especially with high paper costs of late.)

    I've read both sides of the coin...

    Those who "get it", they'll have a $10 or $20 book, but the EBook is like $3-$5.. sometimes it's more, but usually not more than half the cost of the physical book. They make good money selling the EBook if the book is any good, they don't have to worry about remaindered books being shipped back from book stores, or getting into those stores to begin with, or distribution costs, and so on for those EBooks, it's esentially pure profit.

    The others will be like $12 for the book, and like $11.50 for the EBook... sometimes they consider the EBook "premium" and charge MORE for it than the physical book! They don't sell many EBooks, and just think EBooks are a bad market, rather than realizing the market is great, they've just priced themselves right out of it.

    You know which category I think Rowling is in here.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Laaaame ebook pricing

      ebook market share is only around 1-5% average.

      until the market share picks up to the point that it becomes profitable to turn their backs on real books, they will not reduce the price.

      its a basic practice of retail, why charge less when you CAN charge more and still make your profit targets. Reducing the price of the books at this point will only be giving cheaper books to those that would probably have paid more anyway.

  29. gfx

    weird is weird about tax. When I order a book from the Netherlands they insist on charging the dutch tax on books (6%) and shipping (19%) But they don't have to, it's allright to charge the uk tax only cause it's in the EU. ships tax free.

    I also can't buy kindle books from the .uk store which are sometimes cheaper only from on which they charge the wispernet fee (even for a wifi only kindle).

    So the end result: I download my e-books and buy real books from the marketplace.

  30. Cheshire Cat
    Thumb Down

    My ebook...

    I have written a book (not quite as popular as those by JKR though) and sell it as both physical and ebook. The ebook sells for half the price of the physical, has no delivery costs, and I get exactly the same commission from both.

    However ebook sales make up <2% of total sales. Barely worth the effort of providing it in that format.

    Personally, I would always pay a few $ more to get a physical book, and would never pay as much or more to get an ebook. Far better to have something solid you can hold, share, and (if necessary) resell.

  31. Semaj

    High Price

    Not that I'll be buying it anyway but...

    Buy the paper copy second hand or pirate the eBook. Then the tax man gets bugger all. When eBooks start coming down in price to a sensible amount (i.e. £1.99 or less) then maybe I'll consider them but till then, I'd rather have my second hand hardbacks thank you very much.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: High Price

      Would this avoiding paying tax be why the world economy is in such a shit state? Perhaps you ought to be careful what you wish for...

  32. TRT Silver badge

    Easily fixed...

    Erratum electronica!

  33. Michael 28

    And all this...

    .... at the same time Peter Hamilton releases " Great North Road" ? How will she compete!

  34. Stevie


    So it's the taxman who sets the price then. Good, because I just hate it when the same e-book that had sold for, say, 13 bux all year suddenly becomes 8 bux when the paperback comes out and it turns out the publisher is just gouging. It's refreshing that Rowling's e-book has none of that old-school thinking behind the new-tech format.

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