French plan October launch for Sony

<p>The Sony Reader is to be launched in France by the end of October initially under an exclusive arrangement with French chain Fnac and France&rsquo;s largest publisher Hachette Livre.</p><p>The launch date has not been officially confirmed, but Fnac chairman and chief executive Christophe Cuvillier said 23rd October was the target. Fnac will sell the device exclusively for six months, with Hachette the only supplier of e-books for the first three weeks. After that, as many publishers and titles as possible would be added in the run-up to Christmas, he said.</p><p>The device will be sold in Fnac stores and from Fnac.com at a &euro;299 (&pound;237), with e-books also sold online at the website. About 2,000 titles would be available for the Reader initially.</p><p>Hachette Livre chairman and chief executive Arnaud Nourry said the e-books would be priced 10%-15% lower than the printed version, even though digitised material carries a VAT rate of 19.6%, as opposed to 5.5% on print books. The market will be watched closely, Cuvillier added: &quot;We do not want a price war between electronic and printed books or among publishers.&quot;</p><p>Nourry said the publisher intended to add new titles weekly, both from its front and backlists. Authors of note will include Am&eacute;lie Nothomb, Jean-Christophe Grang&eacute;, Max Gallo, Erik Orsenna and Bernard-Henri Levy. Most authors are in favour of the project, Nourry said.</p><p>The exclusive deal angered Fnac rival Virgin Megastore. Last week, it put out a press statement condemning the agreement, arguing that it would hamper the development of digital book content in the country.</p><p>But Sony France chief executive Philippe Citro&euml;n told <em>The Bookseller</em> he had explained to the Virgin Megastore management at the beginning of the week that Sony was &quot;not ready to invade the market&quot;. The launch was aimed at testing the market and educating the consumer: &quot;we couldn&rsquo;t do it with everyone,&quot; he said.</p><p>Fnac has 78 stores in France and will open another three edge of town outlets before the end of the year and six abroad, two each in Spain and Portugal and one each in Belgium and Brazil. Despite rumours, Cuvillier reaffirmed to <em>The Bookseller</em> that &quot;the UK is not among our development projects&quot;.</p>