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?