Amazon faces Guillotine in protectionist France

Posted on by Mike Evans

While I hold no brief for Amazon, it is nonetheless disappointing to see protectionism is rearing its head in France. In a move to protect bookstores, Amazon is to be prevented from offering free postage. The problem with petty protectionism of this kind is that it gives short-sighted politicians in other countries the idea of following suit. Strangely, this French initiative as been proposed by the right and endorsed by the far left. Perhaps this isn't too surprising since both ends of the political spectrum are fond of controls and restrictions.

No, I am afraid book stores have to fight on Amazon's terms. They must offer something extra, some hidden benefit that makes people willing to pay a few pence more for the pleasure and convenience of shopping locally. In other sectors this has already happened. In the photographic world, for instance, pile 'em high retailers have largely gone to the wall because they offered nothing more than Amazon but at a higher price. Those camera stores that do remain are specialists, usually run by experts, able to offer advice, service and support that is missing from impersonal Amazon and other on-line retailers.

People will go the extra mile for this sort of knowledge. I know I do. And booksellers, French or otherwise, need to compete instead of sitting behind a paywall. Trade protectionism, like many other isms we could name, is a flawed creed suitable only for consignment to history. It has never succeeded and it never will.

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