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The Least They Could Do: Amazon Charges 1 Cent To Meet French Free Shipping Ban 309

Posted by timothy
from the not-a-sou-more dept.
Last year, we mentioned that the French government was unhappy with Amazon for offering better prices than the French competition, and strongly limited the amount by which retailers can discount books. Last month, the French parliament also passed a law banning free delivery of books. Ars Technica reports that Amazon has responded with a one-penny shipping rate on the orders that would previously have shipped free. Says the article: This is by no means the first time France has tried to put a damper on major US tech companies dabbling in books or other reading materials. In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing on Apple and others. And in 2012, there was the very public dispute between French lawmakers and Google over the country's desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results. At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.
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The Least They Could Do: Amazon Charges 1 Cent To Meet French Free Shipping Ban

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  • Not France vs US (Score:5, Insightful)

    by medoc (90780) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @02:54AM (#47441289) Homepage

    This is not at all about the French/US competition, the big French sites like fnac.com are subjected to the same rules of course.

    You can think one thing or another about the rules, but they are about the big sites killing off the small local shops.

    • by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @03:07AM (#47441309)
      Protectionism is protectionism, whether protecting "small" from "big" or "local" from "foreign" or "wasteful/bad" from "effective". I know a number of small shops. They haven't been killed by Amazon. The smaller book stores have gotten into service and knowledge. Selection and price is for Amazon. Casual discussion of authors while exploring, and running into other people in the shops is left for the locals.

      But then, I haven't been book shopping in France.
      • I also know small bookshops. They are either on main railway stations and sell crappy bestsellers or - if they are located elsewhere - they sell more hipster apparel than books nowadays.

      • In my town, Karlsruhe, Germany, more than half of the book shops have closed.
        Most of the other half got bought buy 'book shop chains' (like Thalia) ... from my mind I can perhaps count 5 still existing book shops. So going 'shopping' is no longer going to happen.
        On top of that for some dumb reason they put SF and Fantasy into one category 'SF&Fantasy' however I'm not interested in the later ... and it takes 5 or more years till an interesting title is finally translated into german.
        I guess the topic is

        • On top of that for some dumb reason they put SF and Fantasy into one category 'SF&Fantasy' however I'm not interested in the later

          At the soft end of speculative fiction's Mohs scale [wikia.com], what difference do you see between "SF" and "fantasy"? What's the difference between "ETs" and "elves"?

          and it takes 5 or more years till an interesting title is finally translated into german.

          Your complaint could be worded that most works of SF literature that you find "interesting" are not published under a license that allows fans to translate it. Whose fault is that?

    • I can get wanting to protect something, but legally blocking something is just clinging to the past. I'll bet there used to be dozens of small buggy whip makers throughout France; too bad for them. It wasn't big business that killed them, it was technological progress. Now, if the people want to preserve the small shops, that's fine, they should shop at the small local shops. I sure do. I don't want to see video stores go extinct due to Netflix so I shop at mine, and I don't want to see book stores go

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @09:11AM (#47442245)

      This is not at all about the French/US competition, the big French sites like fnac.com are subjected to the same rules of course.

      You can think one thing or another about the rules, but they are about the big sites killing off the small local shops.

      Yes, the rest of the world had this argument 20yrs ago when Walmart killed off most of them here.

      The consensus? Fuck the local shops. What good did they ever do us? Unlike most, I remember those shops. I remember the 70yr old owner busy chatting with his friends out front and not giving a shit if I could find what I needed because he was the only game in town. I remember paying $5 for a bolt. I vividly remember when I bought my first guitar, prior to the internet even existing and believing the store owner that $800 was a fair deal (it wasn't, it was a $200 guitar) and after he signed me up for a loan that would likely be illegal today, he asked "Oh... would you like a case with that?" $200 for the case. I paid over $1000 for the guitar, got signed up for a 30% interest rate and it was a balloon payment (go look up how awful that is) I was basically bankrupt all the way through college because of that guy.

      Fuck the local shops. Competition is good. There are still local shops around here, but now they focus on carrying unique hard to find things and customer service. You can't walk in without them jumping up to help you. The products they do carry are things you need "NOW" and can't wait for shipping on. Or things that would be silly to ship. The local shops that weren't total ass-hats survived, the ones that weren't got what they deserved.

    • Funny that it was France that pioneered huge supermarkets outside of the cities a long time ago. Hell, they invented the "hypermarché" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypermarket )! Of course that's killing the small retailers in the inner cities.
  • The implication being that although shipping is not truly free, the cost of it is already fully covered by the order and will be paid for by the shipper.
    • by RJFerret (1279530)

      Marketing: because "free" and "new" are the two strongest advertising buzz words that drive sales. It doesn't matter that it truly isn't free, rather buried in the cost of the item, consumers are attracted to products that include "free" or "new" somewhere and are more likely to buy.

      This is also why "new version" or "new features" or "new colors" or "new enhnacements" are often pitched despite the product being the same old thing with the same old functionality with the same old annoyances.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @04:17AM (#47441417)

    At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.

    Why the assumption that it is good for for-profit companies to find loopholes and avoid the will of democratically elected governments. The French government has made a decision that will have repercussions. If this is followed, books will be more expensive in France, but they wont lose the independent small bookstalls in town high streets that so many other countries will have. It may also inhibit the ability of online companies to start in France. But, guess what, the people can decide. They can lobby for it to be an election issue, ask their representatives which way they vote, etc. If they don't like the law they can get it changed.

    Why is it assumed to be better for a private company with a board who the French people ave no influence upon circumvent this decision?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by silfen (3720385)

      Stop being so naive. It's not "the French people" vs a "private company". This whole thing is about wealthy and powerful European publishers trying to rid themselves of competition that's threatening to erode their profits and their power, and local bookstores are a pawn in that issue.

      As for the French people, if the majority wanted to shop at local bookstores, the issue would be moot, because local bookstores wouldn't be going out of businesses. Of course, even if the majority had that preference, it still

    • by countach (534280)

      It seems oddly contradictory to a capitalist society that you would legislate specifically to keep prices high. And it seems odd that people would want their elected representatives to do so. After all, if most people want the corner book shop to exist, even though it keeps prices high, they are entitled to vote with their wallet. I mean, what's next, airliners are banned because the SS France will be put out of business?

      • It seems oddly contradictory to a capitalist society that you would legislate specifically to keep prices high. And it seems odd that people would want their elected representatives to do so. After all, if most people want the corner book shop to exist, even though it keeps prices high, they are entitled to vote with their wallet. I mean, what's next, airliners are banned because the SS France will be put out of business?

        It's not that odd or unusual. Many areas of the US have liquor laws that require purchase through a distributor and some even set minimum pricing, all of which protectors the entrenched interests and is why the fight tooth and nail against mail order alcohol sales.

      • In your country I can not even order a car from the manufactor. I have to go to a local shop to buy it there.

        And you are concerned about a remote country in europe that prefers to buy books in a shop instead of mail ordering them from a multi national corporation?

        Wow ...

    • books will be more expensive in France, but ...

      And let all the poor people be damned, yes? Well, at least they will have some outdated business kept around where they can browse books they can't afford. Let them read library books!

    • Why the assumption that it is good for for-profit companies to find loopholes and avoid the will of democratically elected governments.

      Democratically elected does not equal democratic.

      The most democratic place I know of is Switzerland, where there is an absolutely constant stream of referendums on absolutely everything, mostly things that in other countries would be all be lumped under an umbrella vote for left or right. For example the Swiss recently voted on the question of whether to buy new Gripen figh

      • Voting with the wallet is a pipe dream.
        It never happened and never will.

        It is far to easy to sit at a saturday night at your PC and order something which might be at monday morning in your post box than staying up early at monday and go to the shop.

    • by argStyopa (232550)

      "But, guess what, the people can decide."

      Guess what, the people have already decided: it's called capitalism. It's the French government that's standing in the way, by decreeing (essentially) that books are only for the wealthy.

  • I really don't see how making books more expensive than they need to be by adopting policies that support physical bookstores helps anybody. Shouldn't the goal be to make reading and culture as affordable as possible and meet the needs of buyers, instead of imposing particular delivery methods?

    • by ledow (319597)

      This has nothing to do with literacy, and everything to do with protecting businesses from external (i.e. foreign) competition.

      In some countries, physical books enjoy a discount on VAT as they are basically encouraged to improve literacy. But ebooks, for some reason, don't.

      It's the same thing - protecting an industry. You think anybody but Disney actually benefits from Disney being allowed to own copyrights on its work for ludicrous amounts of time?

      It's lobbying, and politics, and being seen to protect so

  • The problem here is Amazon is not killing small or independent book stores with free shipping. The problem is independent small book stores are typically overpriced, have poor customer service from a minimum wage clerk who doesnt care to assist, and worse don't have what i want to buy. i love how retailers continue to have a big sook about unfair competition from online shopping, while totally ignorant of the fact they are not delivering what most customers want. and not just price. i find Amazon custome
    • by Shados (741919)

      In the world of the internet, no matter how many rules or laws you pass, only one player will ever be able to compete on price. Even if you banned online sales altogether, someone could find the cheapest physical store (the only difference is that then it would be limited by location/distance, allowing a few more players...but thats as far as you can go).

      If I want a specific product, I know what I want precisely, then of course the only thing that matters is how cheap and how fast i can get it, and there's

  • by yacc143 (975862) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @07:16AM (#47441867) Homepage

    Only as a side note, the German speaking countries have also a system where books are not allowed to be sold below the price set by the publisher. Nothing new here.

  • by Ecuador (740021) on Sunday July 13, 2014 @07:25AM (#47441895) Homepage
    You should never try to protect at an overall cost an established business, however small, cute etc it is. Bookstores have to close. Not all of them, but a lot of them. The ones that actually provide value to the customer will stay due to people actually visiting them. For example I love Amazon, however there is one small local bookstore that provides a great personalized experience and does not gouge prices to which I go first. I see a lot of people not minding a surcharge when they get even more value out of the experience, so this bookstore will servive. Also that small bookstore has found things to bring that Amazon doesn't have etc. Protecting or bailing out failing businesses is always bad for the community as a whole in the long-run. Yes, poor buggy whip makers will be out of jobs in the short term, but we can't all be riding carriages into the future...
    • I'll be satisfied when this same principle will be applied to big banks too. Without excuses. And when apple will cease masking protectionism behind the banning of better competing products on shaky licensing\copyright grounds.
      • by Ecuador (740021)
        Well, I did mention "bailout" didn't I? I wasn't talking just about retail stores. Obviously if a bank tries to make more profit by taking more risk, it should not be bailed out when that risk backfires, otherwise you compromise the basis of our economy - we would all be investing on a casino's roulette and expect to be safe when the ball does not go our way.
        Similarly, bailing out one of the worst-performing car manufacturers in the world is not a good idea, no matter how big they are. Turns out there were
    • by Tom (822)

      The ones that actually provide value to the customer will stay due to people actually visiting them.

      Unfortunately, they will not. Too many people will use the cozy atmosphere and the good service to make their selection, and then order it online because it costs a dollar less.

      Yes, poor buggy whip makers will be out of jobs in the short term, but we can't all be riding carriages into the future...

      Except that Amazon has not invented the car. The buggy whip makers are not going to be out of jobs, they are going to be replaced by minimum-wage buggy whip warehouse slaves.

  • If they could not imagine this really simple countermeasure, they cannot have even a tiny bit of effective intelligence. Makes on wonder about the quality of all these other laws and not only in France.

  • What is with Amazon lately? I just got free shipping on an order less than $3 Canadian. How does that many any sense?
    • by Shados (741919)

      Where it gets crazy, is when you get amazon prime on a full sized safe. Free shipping on something that weights 1-2 TONS.

      Yeah...

  • People in France work fewer hours than their US counterparts. France has mandated a 35 hour work week for their full time employees. The US averages 42 hours for full time work (will probably go down after Obamacare is implemented) and often full time salaried employees have an average of 45-55 hours a week. France also requires a minimum of 5 weeks vacation.

    Gee, I wonder why their products are more expensive than the US...

  • by tsa (15680)

    We don't have pennies in Europe. Just eurocents.

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