France debates the advisability of imposing a minimum cost of book delivery

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France is today (October 6) on the verge of deciding to impose a minimum cost for the postal delivery of books in order to “strengthen the book economy” and “create equality between sellers” .

The deputies demanded that a minimum price, but still competitive, be added by decree.

And Guillaume Husson, delegate to the syndicate of booksellers the Syndicate of the French bookstore (SLF), claims a cost of between 3 and 5 €.

However, this suggestion was rejected by other activists.

These include Jean-Luc Treutenaere, president of the union of cultural leisure distributors (SDLC), who is claiming a lower amount of € 2.90. He said: “If sending a paperback that costs € 7 is going to cost € 5 more, it will be very off-putting.”

Mr. Husson believes that despite the additional cost, consumers will continue to use bookstores, especially if they offer an online “click and collect” service, for which the “collection” part (as opposed to home delivery) is offered. free.

Compete with the distribution giants

If adopted, the law will mainly be designed to help booksellers face competition from the American e-merchant Amazon and the French brand Fnac.

Since 2014, Amazon has only charged € 0.01 for the delivery of books, which many bookstores in France have denounced as “unfair competition” and a threat to the price and sale of books.

Fnac sends free books to its 2.3 million Fnac + subscribers.

The SLF said this was unfair, as delivery by independent bookstores costs an average of € 6.50-7 per package.

This means that the bookstores are unable to compete with the big online retailers. Either they risk losing the order if they pass the entire shipping costs on to buyers, or reduce their already low margins if they send the book “for free”.

In November and December 2020, the French state covered the delivery costs of bookstores as part of the support offered during the pandemic. This resulted in a fivefold increase in online sales by French bookstores during these two months.

Books were also classified as ‘essential items’ and bookstores as ‘essential businesses’ during subsequent Covid-19 closures, allowing them to remain open despite the closure of other stores.

Read more: Bookstores in France now classified as essential shops

Amazon opposes law, says it will threaten rural reading

Amazon France has, perhaps unsurprisingly, mounted opposition to the suggested law.

Frédéric Duval, Managing Director of Amazon France, wrote an open letter to Amazon Prime subscribers, saying that “such a measure would make the purchase of books online much more expensive, as well as the distribution of books through our country, and therefore reading. in general “.

He said such a law would result in France losing purchasing power of “250 million euros” per year, and would encourage people in rural areas to “read less”.

He cited an IFOP study which suggested that more than half of the books bought on Amazon France are bought by residents of municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants, and more than a quarter by residents of municipalities with less than 10,000 inhabitants. 2,000 inhabitants.

Healthy booksellers

Despite competition from e-merchants, bookstores in France appear to be in poor health.

Figures show their business grew 34.2% in the first nine months of 2021, compared to the same period in 2020, and 16% compared to 2019.

Online platforms are also booming.

A new online site called Lireka has just been launched by chance. It offers a million titles in French, and offers free delivery in 185 countries. If this new law is passed, however, free delivery will not be possible in France itself.

Book prices: Lang law

The decision on the new law comes 40 years after the adoption of the “Lang Law”.

This law set a minimum legal price for an individual book, with the aim of “saving independent bookstores”, at a time when hypermarkets like Leclerc were selling books at bargain prices.

It was named after the then Minister of Culture, Jack Lang.

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