France seeks to sell Amazon books – Politico

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PARIS – Who remembers Amazon was an online bookstore? Well, France does.

In a fresh criticism of the e-commerce giant, French lawmakers this week will examine a bill that would effectively prevent Amazon from offering nearly free delivery for book purchases – a major selling point for the online platform versus traditional bookstores.

The bill, which comes from the Senate and has the support of President Emmanuel Macron himself, aims to protect traditional stores from competition with Amazon, which has left them reeling. It is the latest in a series of moves designed to bolster local culture against foreign tech companies, which have included support for press publishers against Google and Facebook, and Support for TV broadcasters against Netflix.

“The goal is to reduce the distortion of competition between online players who can offer a one-cent book delivery service, and the others,” Geraldine Pannier said in an interview. Pannier, an MP for the MoDem party allied to Emmanuel Macron, is responsible for the bill in the Chamber of Deputies.

The text, which will be reviewed by the National Assembly’s cultural committee on Wednesday, is set to require a minimum volume of book delivery. In other words, Amazon’s promise to ship books almost free of charge would not be legal in France.

The US e-commerce giant is opposed to the new rules, according to several French officials, who said the company is lobbying against them.

Amazon declined to comment for this article.

French politicians have long defended independent bookstores against the US tech company – Describe it once By Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo “The Death of Libraries” – Some have called for it Amazon Province.

Between 2006 and 2019, the market share of the 3,300 independent bookstores of France was Reportedly decreased By nearly 3 percentage points due to competition from online retailers such as Amazon and Fnac. During the first coronavirus shutdown, libraries also had to close – but rated “Essential business” in early 2021 and allowed to remain open. In 2020, one in five libraries lost more More than 10% of revenue compared to 2019.

France is no stranger to regulating the book sector.

In the early 1980s, the country passed a “price-a-book” law, whereby publishers had to set prices. Then distributors set themselves in a very limited window between 95 and 100 percent of the price dictated by the publishers.

On top of this rule, free delivery is technically not allowed. Policy makers now envision that the wide range of delivery rates – from €0.01 to €7 depending on the distributor – goes against the law’s goal of having only one price for books.

The new bill would require retailers to charge a fee for shipping books at the lowest price set by the ministries of economy and culture, at the suggestion of telecoms company and organization Arcep. It will also require online platforms to distinguish more clearly between new and used books.

High level support

The text was initially drafted by Laurie Darcus, a senator from the conservative Les Républicains party, who previously worked in the book publishing industry. “It wasn’t an easy choice, because we get consumers to pay again,” she said in an interview.

The Darcus bill has won a very important backer: Emmanuel Macron, who was before the summer holidays She said There was a competition problem between multinational companies and independent bookstores.

It’s no secret that the bill targets mostly – if not only – Amazon, which has built its global empire on cheap and fast delivery.

“It is a well-known fact that the strategy of this operator is to sacrifice its profitability in order to conquer the market through aggressive pricing policies. It compensates for its losses by providing other services, which amounts to making the book a loss leader,” Culture Minister Roslyn Bachelot She said In June, during debates in the Senate, adding that the bill was intended to “directly contradict this strategy.”

Unsurprisingly, Amazon backed away from the new rules.

“Amazon is afraid to set a precedent,” Darkus said. “They want to have a monopoly on online book sales — press where it hurts.”

The e-commerce giant argued that high delivery rates would harm rural areas with little access to physical libraries, according to several people briefed on the company’s arguments. One person said the US tech giant also argued that they would be the only ones to benefit from higher fees because it would mean more margins. (It is not uncommon for multinational technology companies to try to convince policymakers that regulation would be counterproductive because it would actually benefit them.)

The new rules backed By the French Library Syndicate, but also by Amazon’s competitors Like Fnac and Leclerc, where retailers are forced to cut delivery fees and beat their own margins to compete with the US tech giant.

The bill will be presented to the plenary session of the National Assembly in early October.

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