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France announces minimum €3 delivery charge for books to help booksellers compete with Amazon

Published books in bookstore
Photo by Richard Baker / In Images via Getty Images

The French government has announced it will introduce a minimum book delivery rate of €3 (about $2.92) to help small booksellers compete with retail giant Amazon, reports Reuters. The minimum rate only applies to orders under €35 (approximately $34.12).

It is the latest move by the French government to balance competition in the book sector and follows a decades-long tradition of protectionist laws. Since 1981, France has mandated fixed prices for books, with a maximum discount of 5 percent, and in 2010 this law extended to cover ebooks. In 2014, the French government banned the free delivery of booksto which Amazon responded by charging customers one cent (€0.01) for delivery.

In an effort to close this loophole, the government agreed last year to enter a minimum delivery rate, but had only set a price this week. According to ReutersFrance must now notify the EU of its plans and can introduce the minimum allowance six months after the European Commission approves them.

“This will adapt the book industry to the digital age by rebalancing major e-commerce platforms, which deliver books virtually for free regardless of order size, and bookstores that cannot match these delivery prices,” said the French Ministries of Culture and Finance. in a joint statement (translation via Reuters). “The three euro delivery costs […] is not a deterrent to book buyers and the EUR 35 threshold will favor grouped orders, which is good for the environment.”

Ministry of Culture of France describes the book market as “the first of the cultural industries” and says that small, local shops are particularly important to the industry, as they offer personalized recommendations, promote a diversity of topics and organize cultural events.

However, the rise of online retailers such as Amazon and France’s Fnac has eroded the operations of these smaller stores. A report delivered to the French Senate in 2021 notes that these two retailers alone account for 80 percent of online book sales in France, or about 55 million titles. The same report noted that the dominant position of these companies allows them to offer free deliveries, undercut rivals and increase their market share.

These measures have been successful in supporting the smaller booksellers in France. The country is estimated to have some 3,500 independent bookshops – more than three times the number in the UK, which has an equivalent population and canceled fixed book prices in 1997.

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