June 5, 2013

French culture minister: Amazon is “destroyer of bookshops”


French culture minister Aurélie Filippett is the best culture minister.

On Monday, French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti turned up her nose at Amazon’s parasitic business practices, saying “everyone has had enough of Amazon which, through dumping practices, smashes prices to penetrate markets only to then raise prices again once they are in a situation of quasi-monopoly,” in what Britain’s The Daily Telegraph described as “the latest Socialist government broadside against foreign internet firms.”

Filippetti made the comments in Bordeaux, where she announced a €9m joint plan with French publishers to support independent booksellers. The money will largely be used to modernize existing stores, largely by helping them to expand their online sales.

This €9m joint plan is in addition to a slate of funds and programs the French culture ministry announced back in March. As The Bookseller reported then:

[Filippetti] announced that a fund of €5m would be created for loans to booksellers with cashflow problems and that the budget of ADELC, the association that subsidises booksellers, would rise from €4m to €7m to help outlets when they change hands. A general fund for booksellers and other measures “need further reflection”, but should be announced by the summer, she said.

Filippetti, who I think we can now officially call the “coolest culture minister” in the world (sorry Hadia Tajik of Norway! We still love you!!!), didn’t stop there. She also announced that she would be looking into ways to slow Amazon’s growth in France—paying particular attention, according to The Times of India, to “its ability to offer free delivery with discounts of up to five percent on cover prices, which is the maximum allowed in France under existing legislation designed to protect small booksellers.”

She also got a little snappy, saying, “The book and reading sector is facing competition from certain sites using every possible means to enter the French and European book market…it is destroying bookshops.” Certain sites! While we can’t be certain which “certain sites” Filippetti is referring to, the word in Madame Babineaux’s homeroom class is that she’s talking about Amazon.

Since she took office in May of last year, Filippetti has done a great deal for French bookstores and French culture. She’s even changed my mind about France. I used to think the French were nothing but a bunch of onion-wearing bicycle riders, but now I know that they’re a nation of onion-wearing, bicycle-riding bookstore lovers. In fact, I’d move there in a second, if only my dog liked baguettes.


Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.