France seems to thrive on l’exception culturelle, running against the grain of what the rest of the world might consider commonsense. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has, of late, shown a very different approach to personal relationships while in office, the sort of thing that would see uproar, crazed media assaults and impeachment around the rest of the world. In the UK when a business declares job losses you might expect unrest and a spot of light industrial action from the unions, but in France you can expect riots and acts of arson.
Now, Amazon has raised hackles in France because they offer discounted books and, woe is me, free shipping. The Lang Law of 1981 protects small publishers and booksellers by enforcing tiered discounting – basically making competition nigh on impossible without breaking the law. Amazon’s offer, of combined discounts and free shipping on new titles, exceeded the lawful 5% – and following court action, where they lost, they have now chosen to ignore the law and the decision of the court, while paying off a fine in neat little chunks of $1,000 a day. You have to accept that you can’t rescue everyone by force of law – the smaller retailer either has to find a niche or move on… you can’t coddle them and wrap them in cotton wool.
Expect burning books quite soon, probably lit by enraged book stall owners.