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French indies petition against Hachette & Apple
More than 400 French independent booksellers have signed a petition lashing out at Hachette Livre’s agreement with iBookstore to sell its titles on the iPad and urging the group to change is strategy urgently.
The petition, entitled ‘Does Hachette Livre want to do Without Booksellers?’ and reported by the French trade weekly Livres Hebdo, says the joint advertising campaign by Apple and France’s
largest publisher to promote the launch of the iPad in France on 28th May was considered by booksellers "as a sign of great disdain".
The agreement between the two undermined "the need for publishers to fix retail book prices and resistance to the risk of domination or a quasi-monopoly by one or two large American distributors that impose their terms".
A bookseller, who has signed the petition and asked to remain anonymous, said the flashpoint was the advertising campaign staged by Hachette Livre in June to promote Jacques Attali’s latest
book, Tous Ruinés en Dix Ans? (All Ruined in Ten Years?) on the iPad. "The advertisements in all the major newspapers gave the impression that the title was available only electronically, and not
on paper as well," the bookseller said. "One of my regular customers was surprised that I had the book in stock."
The petition, which was launched at the beginning of July by the French Booksellers Association (Syndicat de la Librairie Française, SLF), alleges Hachette Livre is trying "to marginalise French booksellers [for e-books, bowing to] the demands of the American market". This is while SLF is preparing to launch its portal for independents, 1000libraires.com, in October.
But the petition goes beyond the iPad pact, and accuses Hachette Livre of "recurrent obstruction" for several years over issues of interest to both publishers and booksellers. The group "participates in no joint initiatives to promote bookseller development and imposes on a very large number of them payment terms that do not conform to the obligations of the 1981 law" on fixed
book prices. Perhaps this alleged absence explains at least in part why Albin Michel and Editions Eyrolles, which also signed up with iBookstore, escape the SLF’s ire.
Not all booksellers will sign the petition, however. The website ActuaLitté quotes one, who declined to be identified, as saying "publishers need to create new sales points, but do not want to
eliminate booksellers—that’s ridiculous". The source added attacking an advertising campaign was "tackling the problem the wrong way".
Both Hachette Livre and the SLF declined to comment on the petition. A meeting between Hachette’s chief executive Arnaud Nourry and the SLF leadership is expected soon.