The four-day Paris Book Fair closed on Monday (19th March) with a pledge made to defend independent bookshops, as visitor numbers were up 5% on last year to some 190,000.
Culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand and the French Booksellers Association (Syndicat de la Librairie Française, SLF) endorsed a series of proposals presented by an ad hoc committee to shore up independent bookshops.
The result of the presidential and parliamentary elections in April-June should make little difference to their implementation. "There is a (political) consensus to defend cultural diversity in France and the world's most extensive network of independent bookshops," said SLF president Matthieu de Montchalin, who was a member of the committee formed after booksellers had sounded alarm bells about their perilous finances at a conference in Lyons last May.
Since then, a number of publishers have deepened discounts to 35% or 37% from 25% for certain booksellers, extended credit terms and improved other conditions. The SLF singled out 11 publishers and distributors for "the most emblematic of these new measures"—Flammarion; Gallimard; CDE; Ecole des Loisirs; Seuil-Volumen; Harmonia Mundi; Hachette Livre; Editis-Interforum; Actes Sud; Le Dilettante; and La Générale du Livre Distribution.
During a debate on the future of independents, parliament's books champion Hervé Gaymard said it was "indispensable to adopt an all-round law on the future of books and booksellers before the end of this year, (and that) booksellers should be the entry point for print-on-demand books". SLF director Guillaume Husson welcomed the idea of a catch-all law to replace the current piecemeal legislation. "It would be coherent to bring everything together", provided that the content was right, he said.
Other highlights from the fair included a visit by Socialist Party presidential candidate François Hollande, who has promised to return VAT on books to 5.5% from 7%. A notable absence was outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has not visited the fair once during his five-year term.