June 27, 2014

France passes Anti-Amazon Law


France celebrates

Vive la France!

French literary culture was yesterday celebrating the news that members of the French Parliament had voted unanimously in favour of a new law nicknamed “The 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:

This law completes the 1981 law. In 1981 the threat came from best sellers that were sold everywhere, but the Lang law couldn’t have anticipated the development of the Internet and online sales.

The new law demonstrates France’s readiness to update its laws in the face of radical changes in the industry, which have been brought on by the arrival of the internet. It’s something other countries have been painfully slow to do.

Reviewing yesterday’s events, French ministers appear like paragons of common sense when it comes to protecting France’s 3,500 bookshops, 800 of which are independent. Filippetti noted: “As we have just seen again, laws pertaining to the book economy always generate consensus, if not unanimity”. And she wasn’t afraid to speak in grand terms:

This is a sign of our deep attachment to books in this nation, and it demonstrates the belief that France builds itself through its past and its future.

In French, it almost reads like poetry:

C’est le signe de l’attachement profond

de la Nation au livre,

de l’idée que la France se fait d’elle-même,

de son histoire

et de son avenir.


Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.