Amazon Responds to France’s New Book Law

September 22, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. enact /ɛnˈækt/ (v.) – to make something legal by making it a law
Example: The government has enacted a law that lowers the tax for small businesses.

2. rival /ˈraɪ vəl/ (adj.) – referring to a competitor in business or competition contest
Example: Our company is trying to beat our rival company by putting up three huge branches in Asia. 

3. undermine /ˌʌn dərˈmaɪn/  (v.) – to weaken someone or something
Example: The large number of imported goods undermines the local market.

4. dominant /ˈdɒm ə nənt/ (adj.) – most powerful or superior
ExampleDominant businesses often outperform small businesses.

5. boast /boʊst/ (v.) – to brag or tell something proudly
Example: John boasts of his collection of bestseller books.


Read the text below.
US e-commerce giant Amazon finds its way around the French law that prohibits shipping of books for free.

With the law being enacted, Amazon explains in its website that since July 8, delivering books for free is no longer allowed. However, to keep the prices low, Amazon has put in a fixed amount for delivery costs, charging users one cent euro. 

Since 1981, France has long protected independent and small bookshops from unfair competition with giant rival companies. The 1981 law originally states that booksellers are not allowed to give a discount of more than five percent. Currently, the ban on free delivery was also added to the said law. This is because the free delivery offered by Amazon, French retailer FNAC, and a few others is said to undermine the already struggling businesses of small bookstores.  

On another note, Culture Minister Aurelie [aw-REY-lee] Filippetti [fi-LI-pe-tee] said the law is not specifically targeting Amazon. However, she pointed out how the company sells books for low prices in order to gain a dominant market position. But after it dominates the market, it will eventually increase the prices, thus destroying France’s network of book retailers.  

France boasts of its unique network of bookshops, claiming that it is very important in the French culture. Remarkably, France has the highest traditional bookshops in the world with about 3,500 bookshops, 600-800 of which are independent and are not part of a huge publishing company. On the other hand, the UK only has a total of 1,000 bookshops.

Despite the enactment of the law, book sales in France have dropped by 4.5 percent in 2012 while online sales continue to grow.   

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Are you in favor of the French law banning free shipping of books? Why or why not?
·         What could be the negative effects of this law to Amazon?

Discussion B

·         Please describe the book culture in your country.
·         Do you think that traditional bookshops will soon be completely replaced by online book retailers? Why or why not?

September 22, 2014