Published: Tuesday, 4 Jun 2013 | 5:06 AM ET
By: Hugh Carnegy, FINANCIAL TIMES

France's culture minister has attacked Amazon, the online retailer, for deliberately undercutting traditional rivals to create a "quasi-monopoly", in the latest assault by the socialist government on internet companies.

"Today, everyone has had enough of Amazon which, through dumping practices, smashes prices to penetrate markets to then raise prices again once they are in a situation of quasi-monopoly," said Aurélie Filippetti, the culture minister.

Calling Amazon a "destroyer of bookshops", she added that she was considering a ban on free postage offers and a current regime of allowable 5 per cent discounts on books.

Her attack on the US company followed a veto last month by Arnaud Montebourg, the leftwing industry minister, of a proposed acquisition by Yahoo, the web portal, of a 75 per cent stake in DailyMotion, a fast-growing French video sharing site owned by France Telecom.

In April, the digital industries minister labelled Apple "extremely brutal" for excluding a French start-up from its App Store, complaining that the US company had acted unethically.

Ms Filippetti was speaking in Bordeaux where the government announced a €9m joint plan with French publishers to support independent booksellers. "This is an unprecedented effort in favour of the book and reading because without independent bookshops there will be fewer publishers and authors, less choice for the reader and fewer social networks in towns," she said.

Her attack on Amazon came despite the establishment in France by the company of several big distribution centres. Mr Montebourg attended the opening a year ago of the most recent in Chalon-sur-Saône in eastern France, which employs 500 people.

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In other words, traditional publishing still works. 

France is probably a lot like Canada where a domestic bestseller doesn't make an author anywhere near what an American bestseller makes for an American author. The US market is so much bigger than any other domestic market (except, I guess China and maybe Germany) that it's very tough to make these kinds of comparisons.

Traditional publishing in France has probably relied on distributing American bestsellers for a big part of its income for quite a while. That distribution pays for a lot of the infrastructure that the domestic industry relies on.

Sometimes I don't think Americans realize how dominant their corporations are in other countries and what effects that has.

 

I see the UK is following suit.

 

Actually, from our point of view, paying the middleman isn't a good thing. And in the book industry there are far too many middlemen taking a cut before a book passes from store to customer.

 

Still, the biggest threat in the U.S. is that the whole shebang is run by mega companies that end up squeezing out authors whose books do not sell in the millions. Amazon does give preferential treatment to big sellers, but they haven't quite forbidden us yet to upload. 

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