So, we all know France likes a bookshop, but this is above and beyond anything the government would do here. Independent bookstores in the country of love and cigarettes are thriving thanks to a law that sets a minimum price for delivery fees. It doesn’t tackle their terrible terms for publishers that allow them to heavily discount books, but it’s a start. The free delivery is a major draw for Amazon, especially for people in places like where I live (we don’t have a single independent bookstore anymore, even in our capital city). I try to order mostly from Canadian independents like McNally Robinson, or direct from publishers, but it often makes the cost of buying a book rise by up to 50%. I still do it anyway, because I can and I believe in it, but this may make it easier for people who can’t resist the savings to switch back to buying independent. I mean, here’s hoping, anyways.
The fate of French independent bookstores during the pandemic has greatly influenced the new law. France had three nationwide lockdowns. During the first two, bookshops remained closed, despite protests from writers and publishers. But during the second lockdown, in November 2020, the government reimbursed delivery fees for small independent booksellers. It resulted in small shops maintaining 70% of their business. “It showed what a brake on business the postage costs are for local bookstores,” said the rightwing senator Laure Darcos who drafted the law.
In the final lockdown this spring, books were deemed essential items and bookshops stayed open, with historically high numbers of customers flocking to buy from them. Across France, independent bookshops saw a year-on-year fall in sales of only 3.3% in 2020 despite three months of closures.