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France's Filippetti: 'no scrapping of book discounts'

French culture minister Aurélie Filippetti has dismissed the idea of abolishing the 5% discount on book prices allowed under the 1981 Lang Law.

"It could be very dangerous" politically to reform the law, and would "not be a very good signal" to consumers, but would benefit all retailers including Amazon, she said in an interview with the French trade publication Livres Hebdo published today (18th January). Scrapping the discount has been advocated as part of plan to shore up booksellers that will be announced at the Paris Book Fair at the end of March.

This is the first time Filippetti has detailed her policy priorities for books since she took office after last summer¹s parliamentary elections.

The Virgin Megastore chain, which went into receivership last week, "is the victim of unfair competition from groups such as Amazon that do not respect the same tax rules as companies based in France". Butler Capital Partners, which controls the group, "could have taken certain decisions years ago", she added. But liquidation might be avoided, since Cultura and several other potential buyers have expressed an interest in taking over the chain.

In the wide-ranging interview, she also pledged to rationalise government subsidies for books, and that bookseller plan will aim to add two percentage points to margins. It would include increasing the number of outlets granted the quality label Lir to 2,000.

Filippetti criticised some publishers for not passing on the reduced VAT rate on e-books, which took effect on 1st January 2012 and is still contested by the European Commission. She said she expects a publisher-author agreement on electronic rights to be concluded before the Paris fair, and hopes to announce the nomination of a book mediator, an idea
that has been on the table for many years during the event.