France bails out its publishing monopoly

And thinking a little more about anti-Amazon bias in reporting. Here Melville House comments on the new French “anti-Amazon” law.


The new law forbids the combination of free shipping and a 5% discount on online book sales, meaning that sites like Amazon cannot offer consumers free delivery as a way to undercut independent bookshops, and it drastically curtails the kind of discount packages Amazon can attempt. French Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti a.k.a queen of our hearts and minds has been fighting for these changes ever since she called Amazon the “destroyer of bookshops” and announced a €9m plan to support independent bookshops.

This new law is seen as a much-needed update to the 1981 Lang law which established a “single book price” to prohibit deep discounting of books. Colette Mélot a senator member of the UMP, the party which has been pushing for the law, said:

via France passes Anti-Amazon Law » MobyLives.


What hasn’t been said here? Oh yes, that these laws keep book prices high. And legislate against the competition trying to lower the prices. Outcome? Books remain outside the financial reach of many people in France. For a socialist government this is a remarkably elitist act. And of course the industry as a whole remains largely accessible only to the upper-middle classes. No Kindle self-publishing revolution for the French. Or likely a slower one. Legislation only does so much to stop progress.

Next time you ask for the UK government to act against Amazon, ask also what it is you’re asking for. The preservation of an industry? Or the perpetuation of a professional monopoly?

Published by Damien Walter

Writer and storyteller. Contributor to The Guardian, Independent, BBC, Wired, Buzzfeed and Aeon magazine. Special forces librarian (retired). Teaches the Rhetoric of Story to over 35,000 students worldwide.

One thought on “France bails out its publishing monopoly

  1. I’ve imported several books, print and e-book alike, from France in the past couple of years. While it is true that I received no discounts, the majority of the works were priced around $12-15 each for books (largely MMPBs, but some a bit larger in size) and $10-15 for e-books. Maybe $1-2/book higher than what I pay in the US, but nothing that would keep books out of the financial reach of most of the reading public in France (also worth noting is that hardcovers are relatively rare in France compared to the US or UK). If you want to run price comparisons, I often buy e-books through Libraire Mollat and I believe they have print editions priced there as well.



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