April 29th was Independent Bookstore Day and that reminded me of something the French government did to help their independent bookstores.
In 2021, the French government passed a new law aimed at protecting independent bookstores by setting a minimum price for books sold online. The law, known as the “anti-Amazon” law, is designed to prevent online retailers from undercutting the prices of physical bookstores, which have been struggling to compete with the convenience and low prices of online giants like Amazon.
Under the new law, online retailers are required to charge a minimum of 5% above the publisher’s price for new books and cannot offer free shipping to compete with physical bookstores. The law is intended to level the playing field between online and physical bookstores, and to help support local businesses and cultural diversity.
The move, however, has been controversial. Critics argue that the law will lead to higher prices for consumers and limit choice of where to purchase books. Not surprisingly, Amazon believes the move is nothing but discrimination (https://www.bbc.com/news/business-24383113) but proponents have countered that the benefits of supporting independent bookstores outweigh these potential downsides.
France has a long history of protecting its cultural industries, including book publishing, through various laws and regulations. These efforts are seen as crucial for preserving French culture and maintaining a vibrant literary scene, which is highly valued in France.
“Passing laws to protect books and the book trade is a rare point of political consensus in France, where debate has otherwise become increasingly tense in the run-up to next year’s presidential race. Emmanuel Macron has declared reading “a national priority”, extending opening hours for libraries. The move to force net giants to charge the same for delivery as small bookshops is part of the French notion of “cultural exceptionalism”, which has long sought to shield books and independent booksellers from the ravages of free-market forces.” Reference: Bookshops thrive as France moves to protect sellers from Amazon
Anyone have any first-hand knowledge of how this new law has helped or hindered French bookstores since its inception?
Don’t know about France but quite a few brick and mortar outlets that are not retail bookstores have cut-out bins, dollar hardbacks, $10 a bag at the library. Then there’s Half Price Books. All I see the French law doing is widening the back door to piracy while striking a pose. And, just my .02, I’ve picked up a number of books with jacket prices of $24 and up that weren’t worth the $1 or less I paid for them. The real losers here are the authors. Publishers should be embarrassed by their pricing models. Even small publishers and the once mighty “University Presses” that would throw paper and ink at everything from endangered birds coffee table books to historical surveys. No more. If a consumer wants a book, they’ll get it. Laws, like locks, are for honest people who can afford them. I’ll be the French libraries are doing a bang up business!
Thank you, Phil. Authors and artists seem to always take it on the chin. Seems to me neither of that group ever (or rarely) ever recover the time and effort put in to gain a profit from their work no matter the laws. Might have something to do with them residing on the top tier of Maslow’s pyramid of hierarchy of needs while prospective clients seem to mostly dwell on the bottom part of the pyramid. Appreciate your insight.