The book industry rethinks its resistance to Amazon

Authors, publishers, booksellers, whether they dare to pronounce Amazon's name or not, have had to think during this confinement on how to resist a giant that would threaten cultural diversity and local commerce.

"Yes they force-feed themselves, and it is up to us not to force-feed them!", Launched the Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot on November 2.

"We talk a lot about Amazon with a lot of fantasies", replied to AFP the general manager of Amazon France Frédéric Duval. He put his company's market share in overall retail in France.

In the book, the company's first niche when it was created in 1995, we know that this share is on the rise, without quantifying it exactly. The group does not disclose its sales by product and by country. number one is, it seems, number one for several years, ahead of Fnac or the E.Leclerc cultural spaces.

According to the National Publishing Union, it normally achieves 50% of online sales, a rough estimate, which would represent 10 to 15% of total sales. The Syndicat de la librairie française believes that Amazon captures "more than half" of online sales and about 10% in total.

The confinements, which forced bookstores to close, have led the sector to review its strategy against the multinational.

She focused on communication. Writers, literary juries and even political leaders have multiplied the calls to help booksellers, authorized to sell pre-ordered works ("click and collect").

The Intermarché chain, through a "solidarity drive", made its digital platform available for booksellers without a merchant website.

It seems very insufficient. The Le Grenier bookstore, in Dinan (Côtes-d'Armor), estimates that it currently achieves 12% of its usual turnover.

The model "is good"

"Some booksellers start to be profitable in November-December, a decisive period. So for them, this second confinement is very difficult", explains to AFP the academic Vincent Chabault, specialist in the book market.

"However, the bookstore model in France is a good one. It is the first sector that suffered the arrival of Amazon and while we taxed the booksellers of outdated, resistant to digitization, they are well armed. The challenge is to bring people to the store using digital tools, and they are working on it, "adds the author of a" Praise of the store "published in January.

Bookshops, in Cannes or Paris, have gone so far as to defy the ban and open their doors.

Elsewhere in the industry, the most radical were around fifty small publishers or groups of publishers who, at the beginning of November, wrote in a column: "We will no longer sell our books on Amazon".

"We do not want to replace the advice of a bookseller with those of an algorithm, nor collaborate on a system that endangers the book chain with fierce and unfair competition," they detail.

There is a jumble of Hobo Diffusion, which brings together some 80 houses, and anti-capitalist militant publishers (Les Editions sociales, Marxistes, Noir & Rouge, anarchiste, or Les Editions libertaires) or regional (Le Chien rouge in Marseille, Huber in Pau , Goater or Pontcerq in Rennes).

For them, the economic risk, without being zero, is not disproportionate. "There is a report that is made, online customers who, if they do not find the title on Amazon, seek it elsewhere", explains to AFP the manager of Hobo David Doillon. "We may lose turnover but it is a question of consistency with the works that we present," he adds.

Getting out of Amazon completely is, however, almost impossible. The platform references all new features, from databases common to publishers. And the books that the group does not manage to include in its stock can be offered, via its Marketplace service, by second-hand resellers, individuals ...

In the country of the single book price, competition is based on shipping costs, systematically set at 0.01 euros at Amazon. The government gave a helping hand by announcing in early November that it would cover postage costs for independent booksellers. But this will only last for the time of confinement.

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