Software cheaper in physical form than in soft copy?

Tower, this is bravo, echo, echo...

I enjoy photography. I’m not very good at it but I have lots of fun trying new things with my camera all the time (see above my shot of a bee flying between flowers, for example).

I use Adobe’s excellent Lightroom 3 Beta to manage my photos and to upload them to Flickr where I share them under a Creative Commons license.

Today when I went to purchase a copy of Lightroom I discovered that the cost to buy it for download was ?301.29 whereas to obtain the physical copy (including shipping) was only ?288.84!*

I asked on Twitter how was it possible that the physical copy was cheaper than the downloadable version and Adobe’s Robin Charney replied saying

it’s to do with the VAT rate in Ireland which is where our online store is based

I don’t get that – how is the VAT rate higher for goods which are downloaded, as opposed to physical ones (which have to be burned to disk, boxed and shipped)?

If this is the result of some strange Irish tax law discriminating against non-physical goods, then I doubt Adobe are the only e-tailer suffering from it. Has anyone else noticed purchasing goods online is cheaper for the physical then the soft copies?

*Note these prices were for the Spanish Adobe store. I checked the Irish and UK sites and the physical copies are cheaper there too. Frank Koehntopp informed me via Twitter that this also holds true for Germany, whereas Ann Petteroe said that

In Norway download is cheaper (Flex/LightRoom9 because the download version is without VAT apparently

I’d love to hear more stories like this so we can track down the reasons why and try to make sure that in all cases the downloadable copy is cheaper than the physical one.