Thursday, October 03, 2013

France Rebuffs Amazon


Amazon is the biggest threat to independent booksellers and it's a huge threat.  It offers deals on books the indies often can't match and usually throws in free shipping to boot.   Why that should matter to all of us is that excessive domination of the market by a mega-seller reduces competition and, ultimately, choice.  It's bad for readers, it's bad for booksellers and their employees and it's worse for writers.

So kudos to France for saying "non" to Amazon.

France has approved a bill to support independent bookstores against competition from online retailers.
The new laws will restrict companies like Amazon from combining offers of five percent discounts with free deliveries.
France's 3,000 independent bookshops have complained that they can't compete with the cut-price offers online.
The opposition right-wing party UMP proposed the bill, but it also has the support of the left.
It has been approved by the lower house and will now be sent to the Senate.
The BBC's Paris correspondent Christian Fraser said the bill "might be seen as payback" for Amazon's practices of reporting European sales through a Luxembourg holding company, to take advantage of comparatively low corporate tax rates. 

By the way, if you're looking for a deal on books and you want to support independent booksellers, try Abe Books (abebooks.com) where you can find just about any title, new or used, from booksellers around North America, Ireland and the U.K.   It's a great alternative to Amazon.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

There exist projects which allow access to books at no cost, books whose copyright has expired (or never existed) and are now in the public domain.

International:

http://gutenburg.org

Canada:

http://gutenberg.ca

The Mound of Sound said...

Yeah, Gutenberg is good for legacy e-books. I've gone off e-books. They're fine for reading but not very useful for reference. That's why I've gone back to paper.

Anonymous said...

Well, you can print them, you know?

The Mound of Sound said...

I wonder what that would cost in printers, ink, paper and energy?

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who find e-books to be antithesis to reading and reference.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder what that would cost in printers, ink, paper and energy?"

And commercial publishers don't incur the same costs? If you print it yourself, at least you don't waste resources in packaging and shipping the book, spewing ever more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

But have it your way.

CV SoG said...

"AbeBooks Inc. is a subsidiary of Amazon.com"

http://www.abebooks.com/books/CompanyInformation/

The Mound of Sound said...

Is it really, CV? Oh well at least it connects you to indie booksellers.

@Anon 9:25 - yes, I think I will have it my way. I doubt that self-printing, given the outrageous cost of ink, would be viable. How do you bind such a thing? Besides, most of the works I collect are not to be had on Gutenberg.

CV SoG said...

Yes I got that quote from their site. They are not an alternative to Amazon since they're owned by them.

As far as I'm concerned, Amazon is to reading what Monsanto is to food.

Matthew Day said...

Economic competition theory is all very well,and often gives us insight into public policy direction. However, as with any theory, you need to check your underlying assumptons before you accept it.
"Why that should matter to all of us is that excessive domination of the market by a mega-seller reduces competition and, ultimately, choice. It's bad for readers, it's bad for booksellers and their employees and it's worse for writers."
The REASON Amazon poses such a threat to independant booksellers is because it offers the widest possible selection, delivers their product far more efficiently than a local store can, and can be accessed very easily. I think your analysis is wrong, and the reason booksellers are dying is because Amazon has compelling advantages. I love book stores. I am addicted, and I regret the passing of so many of my favourite stores. I still recognise that Amazon has their place, and offers extremely good value for their customers. This is the market at work, and Amazions business model depends in itès entirety on offering value to their clients, through extremely wide selections, and good prices. They are the answer to the problem of non-competetive behaviour in the book industry.

The Mound of Sound said...

I don't buy your assumption that Amazon offers the widest selection. Of course it has more titles than a corner bookstore but that's not the point. The focus must be on what titles it doesn't carry.

Companies that achieve a market dominant position try to pare costs by narrowing choice. Amazon dominates by convience shopping. You don't have to go out and deal with a proprietor or bookstore employee. There's no personal interaction at all.

My daughter and her beau recently moved to Vancouver from Chicago. In their former home they bought almost everything from Amazon online through their "free delivery" Prime account. Dog food, toilet paper, anything was at their door the next day.

Governments lose out on sales tax and business taxes, not to mention income taxes from retail employees. The Europeans have revealed how online giants such as Amazon and Apple structure their affairs to become tax exempt.

To me, Amazon is the equivalent of outsourcing retail. It's sort of like Wal-Mart, a place where people go to shop themselves out of their jobs. I haven't set foot in a Wal-Mart in better than 15-years and I won't.