French government says publishers should collaborate over e-book negotiations

French government says publishers should collaborate over e-book negotiations

French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand has urged French publishers to speak with one voice in forthcoming negotiations with Amazon over supplying their e-books for the Kindle.

During a visit to Silicon Valley, where he met senior managers of Amazon, Apple and Google, Mitterrand told reporters that if publishers go into negotiations separately, "in disorder and a climate of permanent rivalry and competition", Amazon would "fairly rapidly dictate its law". Publishers should establish common rules on fixed e-book prices and other issues, he added.

Referring to the recent raids of five French publishers and the publishers association (SNE) by European Commission competition officials, he said:  "I don’t think that we are in a zone of conflict or zone of difficulty between the French State and the main partners and players. On the other hand, we are in a general situation where a certain number of principles must be respected."

After his chilly welcome to last year’s agreement for Google to scan out-of-print books for Hachette Livre, Mitterrand described the pact as "excellent", and predicted it would be extended to other French publishers. But the agreement would not have been secured if the government had not insisted "on a certain number of principles from the start", he said.