The French government has reached a new point in its quarrel with Amazon, economics, technology, reality, and all of history sure the death of Louis XIV. The lower house of the French parliament, the National Assembly, voted across party lines to pass a new bill banning free shipment of books by online stores, and limiting discounts on prices set by publishers to 5 percent maximum.
Specifically targeted at Amazon, the new law will now go to the upper house of the French parliament, the Senate, and may face further legal challenges at the European level. Amazon wasn’t slow to point out that this rule will only make a slight difference to its operations, while hitting French book buyers first and hardest. And it will obviously do zero to halt the shift towards ebooks. l doubt it will do too much for French bookstores either.
As Tim Worstall pointed out in Forbes, “the French understanding of economics is that it would never do if consumers were able to get a decent deal. Nor, of course, should anything at all change just because technology has.” This is the country cited as “the new sick man of Europe.” And with policies like this, you can see why.
Writers and cultural figures bemoaning the waning influence of French literature and the French language might be better occupied in figuring out ways for it to produce stuff that the rest of the world actually wants, rather than ring-fencing it from reality. I really hope that some enterprising Belgian or Swiss booksellers, out of reach of the dead hand of the French state, see the opportunity and start discounting and importing heavily. France deserves it.