updated 04:45 pm EDT, Wed May 25, 2011
New law may dictate e-book costs beyond France
A new law passed last week by France's National Assembly could have repercussions for e-book pricing beyond the country itself. Known just as a "prix du livre numérique" (price of digital books) law, it would update the country's Lang Law from 1981 to require that books with a French publisher be sold in France at no more than a five percent discount below the list price. The requirement is irrespective of the company's origin and would make e-book providers like Amazon, Apple, or Kobo follow French rules even though they were located in North America.
The update was intended to encourage French culture by creating a level playing field against outside stores. It would also prevent large-scale chains from overwhelming independents by undercutting them on price. French officials, including Culture Minister Mitterand, argued that editors should have final say over how their books are priced.
Pricing wouldn't necessarily change dramatically but could still leave French pricing at iBooks, the Kindle Store, and others significantly different than in the rest of the world. Amazon and Apple use the agency model, where the publisher sets the price, but a local price hike or discount would prevent a consistent price across countries.
France may have trouble maintaining the law like it does the original paper version. Officials have warned that France may be risking a head-on conflict with the European Commission and the EU Court of Justice. The move may rile the continent-wide body's call for free markets, Haute-Savoie deputy Lionel Tardy said.
If sustained, the rule could be joined by another one proposed in Spain. Belgium, the Netherlands and other Low Countries were also exploring similar moves. [via Les Echos and Ars Technica]