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It seems that France is always in the midst of a fight or a strike or a plight: Metro strikes, working week laws, presidential affairs, or love lock regulations.
The country’s latest cause du jour is Amazon. In this battle, France joins others worldwide who are rallying against Amazon’s monopoly on the book business and the current dispute between the online giant and the book publisher Hachette. Comedian Stephen Colbert is one of many who is standing up to Amazon. Colbert stated, “Because of Amazon’s scorched-earth tactics, more people are getting screwed than in Fifty Shades of Grey.”
It is being called the “Anti-Amazon” law, and the law has gone to President Hollande for signature and approval. The French Senate ratified the bill and it is now awaiting formal enactment. The president is expected to sign the bill into law within a week’s time. The law would prohibit offers of free delivery from online sellers like Amazon. Free delivery is as appealing as it is detrimental; such enticements are destroying small booksellers, who offer their products at retail prices, unlike Amazon.
France’s Minister of Culture, Aurelie Filippetti, said the law is proof of “the nation’s deep attachment to books.” By French law, Amazon’s discounts are held to 5%, showing further proof of France’s protective spirit of art in traditional form: books in bookstores, and the shop owners who sell them.
Paris bookstores like Shakespeare & Company remain an alluring tourist attraction, but many people go into such a bookstore for non-buying browsing, only to make a note of a book title and find a cheaper copy online (I too am guilty of this).
J.R. Mellin, an American in Paris who works at the Pasteur Institute had this to say about the issue: “I think France goes out of its way to try and protect the values and traditions. And I think it’s kind of wonderful that books are a part of that. Being an American, we sometimes put profit first and foremost and maybe we lose a little bit of charm of a thing like a great old bookshop in the bargain, which is kind of a shame.”
As the bill hangs in the balance, one thing remains definite: France’s fortitude in honoring the arts. And that is something to be proud of.