A French law passed in 2014 that prohibits retailers from discounting new books has helped small bookstores survive amidst heavy competition from powerful online retailers. However, the owners of independent shops are still at a disadvantage because online marketplace giants such as Amazon have managed to evade this law by allowing customers to pay just one cent for shipping.
That’s why France has adopted new legislation that sets a minimum price for book deliveries to further protect small independent bookstores by leveling the playing field.
There is something special about being able to see real books in a shop, an experience that is at the risk of becoming extinct if we don’t work to preserve independent bookstores. According to a small bookstore owner, Americans and other tourists are surprised that her shop still exists and tell her how beautiful it is to visit a bookstore in the flesh, as many of the ones in their own countries have been shoved out of the market by online competitors.
Amazon fought hard against the new legislation, which is yet to be enacted, arguing that it would hurt residents who live in rural areas who cannot easily access a physical bookshop. However, consumer attitudes seem to say otherwise, as many say they understand why the shipping cost is there and don’t mind paying for it while supporting a local business.
“The price of books should be the same everywhere,” says one bookshop customer. “If there are offers online, they also have to take into account the shipping costs, so it’s normal to have to pay a little bit more if we want to have books delivered.”
Bookstores have historically been important places of gathering and idea-sharing in France and around the world, and for bookworms everywhere, small independent bookstores are nestled lovingly in their hearts. Many hope that this new legislation will help independent bookstores meet their online competitors and will allow them to survive for years to come.