Monday, June 25, 2012

France Bans Book Discounts

Small, independent bookstores in U.S. have long complained that publishers grant deeper discounts to bookstore chains and to, because the latter buy more books. The chains and Amazon then pass these discounts on to customers. This puts small bookstores at a competitive disadvantage.

Of course, the chains are at a competitive disadvantage even against Amazon.

But this disadvantage does not exist in France, which, forbids stores from discounting books beyond 5% of retail price.

According to Angelique Chrisafis, writing for Britain's The Guardian newspaper (June 24, 2012):

"In contrast to the UK's famous three-for-two deals, the French state fixes the prices of books and readers pay the same whether they buy online, at a high-street giant or a small bookseller. Discounting is banned. The government boasts that price controls have saved small independent bookshops from the ravages of free-market capitalism that were unleashed in the UK when it abandoned fixed prices in the 1990s. France has more than 3,000 independent local bookshops and 400 in Paris, compared with around 1,000 in the UK and only 130 in London. But online book giants are still eating into small bookshops, many of which struggle to stay afloat."

According to Wikipedia, this is called France's Lang Law. It was passed in 1981, and extended to cover ebooks in 2011. Similar laws exist in Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

I love bookstores, but as a reader, I certainly appreciate book discounts. A conundrum.

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