Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

E-books in France a non!starter

François Hollande, who was once photographed engrossed in French History for Dummies on a dinghy, will no doubt find that his holiday reading is scrutinised this summer. But if he is like most of the French population, he is more likely to be packing a stack of paperbacks than a digital reader.

E-books in France have been slow to catch on as readers overwhelmingly prefer the printed page.

Reading habits were back on the political agenda in France this week when Hollande’s government, vowing to protect the printed word and France’s bookish reputation, announced it would cancel former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s controversial value-added tax rise on books.

In contrast to the United Kingdom’s famous three-for-two deals, the French state fixes the prices of books and readers pay the same whether they buy online, at a high-street giant or a small bookseller. Discounting is banned.

The government boasts that price controls have saved small independent bookshops from the ravages of free-market capitalism, which was unleashed in the UK when it abandoned fixed prices in the 1990s. France has more than 3 000 independent local bookshops and 400 in Paris, compared with about 1 000 in the UK and only 130 in London. But online book giants are still eating into small bookshops, many of which struggle to stay afloat.

The next question obsessing the market watchers is whether old habits will change and the e-book will catch on in France. The state price-fixing rule has been extended to digital reading. But the change is not just a question of cost. Surveys have shown that the majority of French readers, like those in Germany, still prefer paper books to reading on screens.

Although sales of English-language e-books have grown rapidly in France — to about 20% of total book sales in the United States and almost 10% in the UK — predictions for this year are hovering at about 3% of the market. Some publishing giants are confident that e-book growth will come to France in time, but for now the paperback has the advantage. — © Guardian News & Media 2012

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Kenya’s beach boys fall into sex tourism, trafficking

In the face of their families’ poverty, young men, persuaded by the prospect of wealth or education, travel to Europe with their older female sponsors only to be trafficked for sex

High court reinstates Umgeni Water board

The high court has ruled that the dissolution of the water entity’s board by Minister Lindiwe Sisulu was unfair and unprocedural

Mkhize throws the book at the Special Investigating Unit

It’s a long shot at political redemption for the former health minister and, more pressingly, a bid to avert criminal charges
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×