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Old 05-04-2011, 05:56 AM   #1
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Today In Ridiculous French Regulations: eBook Price Controls!

Today In Ridiculous French Regulations: eBook Price Controls! (AMZN, GOOG, AAPL) http://www.businessinsider.com/franc...ontrols-2011-5

Came across this while browsing, seems counterproductive to say the least.
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Old 05-04-2011, 07:07 AM   #2
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Today In Ridiculous French Regulations: eBook Price Controls! (AMZN, GOOG, AAPL) http://www.businessinsider.com/franc...ontrols-2011-5

Came across this while browsing, seems counterproductive to say the least.
A lot of ranting in the article, but relatively little detailed information... a fixed price for all eBooks alike? Based on length? Based on...?
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Old 05-04-2011, 07:49 AM   #3
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He completely misses the point. What France does here, really, is apply the existing legislation concerning fixed book prices to ebooks (no surprise there, most European countries do the same), and what's more, to ebooks that are sold to French consumers from outside of France. The latter is a bit more contentious, perhaps. It could mean that Amazon.com (or Amazon.ca, for that matter) would have to charge prices fixed by French publishers, at least for editions meant for the French market.

What does it all mean? The publisher (or author, in the absence of one) gets to set a price and nobody must sell below that (only it's the law and not a collusion by the Big Six). It's been working like this for ages; there is no price-based competition on the European book markets (which is why Amazon routinely throws in free shipping. It's the only way they can compete with the brick-and-mortar stores on price).

This does not mean that there won't be €0.99 novellettes, just that nobody must sell them for €0.79 if they author doesn't want them to.

Is it anti-competitive? Yes, decidedly and purposefully so, for better or worse, but far from revolutionary.

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Old 05-04-2011, 08:28 AM   #4
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Thanks for decoding it guys! It does read like a rant though.
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Old 05-04-2011, 09:32 AM   #5
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This does not mean that there won't be €0.99 novellettes, just that nobody must sell them for €0.79 if they author doesn't want them to.
How could someone sell a book for less than what the author wants it to be sold for, unless that author had previously agreed that their book could be sold for that lower price?

For instance Amazon's policy of dropping independent books to lowest possible price, the lowest price their bots find while crawling the net, for a particular book on sale. When you upload a book, you agree to allow Amazon to do discount your book if you list your book at a lower price on say Smashwords.
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Old 05-04-2011, 10:27 AM   #6
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How could someone sell a book for less than what the author wants it to be sold for, unless that author had previously agreed that their book could be sold for that lower price?
Depends on the circumstances. With a 1$ book this is probably not much of an issue, but otherwise the bookseller could simply decide to reduce his profit (sharing part of the difference between the bulk price and the suggested retail price with their customers), even have it as a loss leader. Only, they mustn't under French law; no price-based competition.

There are large lists of "official" prices, based on ISBN, and all sellers are expected to charge those. A bit messy with ebooks, but there you have it.

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Old 05-04-2011, 11:01 PM   #7
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Depends on the circumstances. With a 1$ book this is probably not much of an issue, but otherwise the bookseller could simply decide to reduce its profit (sharing part of the difference between the bulk price and the suggested retail price with their customers), even have it as a loss leader. Only, the mustn't under French law; no price-based competition.

There are large lists of "official" prices, based on ISBN, and all sellers are expected to charge those. A bit messy with ebooks, but there you have it.
I'd say it's a bit more than messy, its downright unenforceable.
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Old 05-05-2011, 01:30 AM   #8
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It's certainly not unenforceable; it is enforced, and has been for decades. Most European countries have fixed price book agreements in place.
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Old 05-05-2011, 02:08 AM   #9
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We'll see how it works out. So far it's mostly been working (for Germany at least): the publisher sets a MSRP (well, I say "suggested", but "prescribed" would be more like it, really) and that's that. But of course it doesn't apply to, say, Amazon or other international sellers. (We've had something like this with pbooks as well. Books were exported to Hungary, I think it was, and sold from there back to consumers in Germany. Didn't have much of an impact.)

So you can often buy the same German book at a discount at Amazon.com whereas Amazon.de (along with the rest of the German competition) is obligated to charge full price. This might not pay off for pbooks (think warehousing, shipping etc.), but ebooks are a real game-changer here.

To me it seems as though the French are merely trying to close that gap, i.e. also target booksellers outside of France selling to French buyers. It certainly raises a few... interesting legal questions.

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It's certainly not unenforceable; it is enforced, and has been for decades. Most European countries have fixed price book agreements in place.
I'm not sure how well it will work for books without, say, an ISBN, or without a big publisher behind them to publish their quarterly lists.

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Old 05-05-2011, 03:11 AM   #10
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To me it seems as though the French are merely trying to close that gap, i.e. also target boksellers outside of France selling to French buyers. It certainly raises a few... interesting legal questions.
Realistically, it could only be enforced for those companies with a legal French "presence". French law has no juresdiction over companies based elsewhere. There's certainly nothing to stop French buyers buying discounted books from British book shops, for example.
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Old 05-05-2011, 03:50 AM   #11
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Realistically, it could only be enforced for those companies with a legal French "presence".
Isn't there an Amazon.fr? Looks like they're incorporated in Luxembourg, though.

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French law has no juresdiction over companies based elsewhere.
So one would think. Well, the French have certainly tried in the past [1], though. I remember some brouhaha a few years back over the sale of some Nazi memorabilia (on ebay, I think?) that was perfectly legal in the US, but apparently not France. I think they made them comply in the end by removing those items, voluntarily or not.

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There's certainly nothing to stop French buyers buying discounted books from British book shops, for example.
They are not worried about English books, I think. And I don't see British shops stocking up on French books all of a sudden. If I had to point to a largish secondary source for French ebooks my money'd be on Canada.

[1] Actually, who hasn't? Anybody remember the Helms-Burton Act?
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Old 05-05-2011, 06:12 AM   #12
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I'd say it's a bit more than messy, its downright unenforceable.
Not really. We had the same sort of thing in England until some idiot decided competition would be good for the industry. Cue the closure of thousands of independent book shops and the rise of mega-books inc, one chain to rule them all.

I'm not sure what the plan is with ebooks though, that business is already tied up pretty tight between a handful of companies, so I would suspect that preservation of small businesses is not the motivation here.
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Old 05-05-2011, 09:22 AM   #13
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Yes, the origins of copyright lay in the minds of english publishers who were whining about the lower price of scottish imported pbooks, but these are ebooks we're talking about here folks.
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Old 05-05-2011, 09:45 AM   #14
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It's not about copyright it's about not giving large corporations an unfair advantage.
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Old 05-05-2011, 10:29 AM   #15
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It's not about copyright it's about not giving large corporations an unfair advantage.
Competing on price is a completely fair advantage.
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