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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Well, I can't speak to France's situation. They have a very different attitude toward books in Europe. As for the U.S. book stores, I'm on record as being bitter about their return policies which have ruined innumerable genre and midlist authors. They have held up publishers for extra money to shelve or display new books, probably charged fees for signings (Note that B&N did not permit me to do a signing unless the publisher signed off on it), and they have returned orders mere weeks after receiving them to keep shelves free for best-selling books.

If my books are not on the store shelf, they don't exist. Amazon keeps my books available!

Well, I certainly see amazon as a dangerous, evil monoplisitic firm.

On the other hand, there are other ways to state this.

One would be "Customers are killing bookstores". 

And another might be  "The dysfunctional publishing industry is to ossified to deal with competition"

Linton, I agree with all three comments, though i think the first two would be far less damaging were it not for the third. That's the most serious problem.

In the same way Henry Ford was the destroyer of buggy shops...

Well, no, buggy shops would have just become car dealerships. This is different - maybe not bad, but different.

And, as Jack points out, the whole distribution of goods is going to change a lot. I see it these days with many, many empty store fronts and the only new businesses coming in franchised fast food restaurants.

It does seem good for customers to have direct contact with the manufacturers without the locally-owned middle-men, but only time will tell.

 

Actually, though, the buggy shops didn't become auto dealers.  Like gas stations, those were placed by the manufacturors.

Probably not analogous--unless amazon starts opening stores. 

Not impossible, I guess.  In Mexico  mail order catalogs are non-existent.  But there are stores where you go in and order shoes and things from catalogs, then pick them up at a later date.

Thus a tiny storefront can offer huge lines of goods without capital outlay for flooring.

Probably wouldn't fly in France... but what's the mail like in Nairobi?

Well, this is what I mean. Likely the owners of buggy shops became franchisees. In many cases it was likely the same indivuals involved and there was still some local ownership.

That may be the biggest change here. You may not notice it as much in the US because one American company (Amazon) is replacing another American company (say, Barnes and Noble or indie bookstores) but for most of the rest of the world it means the American company is replacing the locally-owned one.

And maybe that's fine. But there may be some consequences that haven't been considered. It may be part of a larger change as we move from owners to renters. We're seeing a lot more subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime and Spotify and less owning. It's early days yet.

 

Clearly, it's not just Amazon. Retail industry has been flipped upside down by the internet. Books, music, movies, clothes, travel, appliances, hard goods of all kinds, almost everything is bought online.

Twenty years from now, isn't it possible that almost EVERYTHING will by purchased by mobil phone and delivered?

Or produced at home with 3-D printers?

Maybe they'll call them replicators?

Is France concerned about bookstores or physical books in bookstores?

"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.

Also, how is it that I've not been on CrimeSpace in 6 months? What the hell happened? Ah well, back again, and good to see the place didn't burn down. Thanks for minding the till, guys.

Glad to see you back and a trickle of activity.  :)

 

I suspect that in France publishing has not declined to supporting nothing except bestsellers. That also means that readers have had a variety of books available through bookstores.  In other words, traditional publishing still works.  

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