Pellerin questions lawfulness of subscription model

Pellerin questions lawfulness of subscription model

French culture minister Fleur Pellerin has asked the book mediator for a opinion on whether Kindle Unlimited and other subscriptions for unlimited access to e-books infringes the law in France.

Legislation adopted in 2011 extended to digital versions the 1981 Lang law allowing publishers to set retail prices for print books, and it seems Amazon’s latest offer “does not comply with (this) law,” Pellerin said in a statement yesterday (22nd December). She has asked the mediator Laurence Engel, who was appointed in September, to submit her opinion on the question after consulting publishers and the platforms concerned.

This followed a statement from the French authors society (Société des Gens de Lettres, SGDL) saying that it is “resolutely hostile” to the e-book subscription system.

Kindle Unlimited, which was launched in France on 11th December, is not the SGDL’s only concern. “These new models of distributing e-books are very worrying,” the statement said. Musicians have earned little from such systems, and it is not known how much Amazon will pay publishers or authors for books made available through Kindle Unlimited in France.

Although the consequences for the e-book market will be limited for the moment, since digital books have made little inroad in France until now, the SGDL fears the impact of the new offers on the sale of print books and plans for libraries to lend e-books.

Hachette Livre c.e.o. Arnaud Nourry told the French economic daily Les Echos last week that it was out of the question for Hachette to sign up to a subscription formula or to tied sales of print and digital books for an extra euro. “This would lead simply to a collapse of prices,” he said. None of the other major French publishers have signed up to Kindle Unlimited so far, but Les Echos said Nourry has difficulty convincing them of his point of view about the system.

In a recent interview with the French trade publication Livres Hebdo, National Book Centre (Centre National du Livre, CNL) President Vincent Monadé also criticized Kindle Unlimited, but said a unless a national solution is found in France for booksellers to sell e-books within the next two years, Amazon will have taken over the market. “We must act fast, but in making proposals, by being better than them, not trying to prohibit,” he said. For a real unlimited choice of books, go to a bookshop, he said in a press statement last week.