Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Tourists often marvel at the number of rich and varied bookstores along Paris streets. Right across from Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the city's most famous independent bookstores, Shakespeare and Company. Inside, every inch of space is crammed with books and readers. The city buys buildings in high-rent districts and tries to keep a core of 300 independent bookstore by offering booksellers leases at an affordable price. "We have to keep our identity," says Lynn Cohen-Solal, "because if we don't, all the shops are exactly the same in Paris, in London, in New York, in New Delhi, everywhere." Now Eleanor Beardsley reports at NPR that the French government has accused Amazon of trying to push the price of physical books too low and is limiting discounts on books to ensure the survival of its independent booksellers. France's lower house of parliament has unanimously voted to add an amendment to a law from 1981, known in France as the Lang Law which sets the value of new books at fixed prices and only allows retailers to lower books' set price by 5%, in an effort to regulate competition between booksellers and to promote reading. Guillaume Husson, spokesman for the SLF book retailers' union, says Amazon's practice of bundling a 5 percent discount with free delivery amounted to selling books at a loss, which was impossible for traditional book sellers of any size. "Today, the competition is unfair," says Husson. "No other book retailer, whether a small or large book or even a chain, can allow itself to lose that much money," referring to Amazon's alleged losses on free delivery. Amazon spent $2.8 billion on free shipping worldwide last year to gain a competitive advantage. The bill limiting Amazon's price reductions in France still has to pass the Senate to become law. In a statement, Amazon said any effort to raise the price of books diminishes the cultural choices of French consumers and penalizes both Internet users and small publishers who rely on Internet sales.
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