Saturday, November 27

France’s parliament helps small bookstores fight Internet giants

Presidential elections are due again in France next year. The election campaign has long since found its way into politics. There are currently only a few issues on which the various political blocks agree. It is therefore all the more remarkable that an initiative to protect small and independent bookshops has now received broad support. However, the legislation also ties in with a long tradition. The prices for books are fixed by the state. As in Germany, they cost the same everywhere, regardless of whether you order them online or buy them from the bookseller around the corner. Only smaller price reductions of up to five percent are allowed. At the same time, free deliveries of books are prohibited. This applies in particular to large internet retailers such as Amazon, who often grant hidden discounts in this way. But so far the law is quite obviously being circumvented.

Image: Bookshelves, Germán Poo-Caamaño, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

In the future, the state will set a lower limit for shipping costs

For example, Amazon in France sometimes pays a delivery fee of one cent for books. Of course, this makes little sense. Because the costs for shipping are by no means covered by it. Instead, there is an increased administrative burden for the company. So it’s all about circumventing the legal requirements. This is exactly what should no longer be possible in the future. In the future, state supervisors will set precise specifications as to how much may be charged for sending a book. This should enable fair competition between small bookstores and online giants. It is difficult to estimate how many shipments will be affected by the new regulation. It is known, however, that between eighty and ninety million books were sold online in 2019. A not inconsiderable part of it should have been ordered from Amazon.

In the lockdown, the state reimbursed the shipping costs of stationary retailers

France’s traditional support for small bookstores is also bearing fruit: there are still 3,500 independent bookstores there that are not part of a larger group or chain. This is three times more than in the UK, where discounts on books are widespread. During the corona pandemic, the bookstores were also able to rely on government aid. In the second lockdown, for example, stationary stores were reimbursed for shipping costs for books sold by the state. This contributed to the fact that, despite the closed sales outlets, sales were at least seventy percent of the previous year’s level. But it also shows that shipping costs play an important role in customers’ purchasing decisions. In the third lockdown, the support went one step further: books were then considered part of the basic service and could continue to be sold in stationary stores.

Via: The Guardian

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