Could national eBook stores fend off Amazon?

French publishing executives have suggested that the country establish a national eBook store, in an effort to to fend off the threat of Amazon and Google.

Could national eBook stores fend off Amazon?

Under the proposals, the store would represent all the country’s publishers and present customers with a single point of purchase. They also urged the French government to extend protective measures already in place for physical books to eBooks, including a single-price mechanism to muzzle competition.

“If we don’t manage to do this, what’s going to happen? We will find ourselves in front of a platform, or hub, already made by a private company … whether Amazon, Google or Apple,” Guillaume Decitre, head of bookseller Decitre, told the press conference.

If we don’t manage to do this… we will find ourselves in front of a platform, or hub, already made by a private company

Decitre said Amazon’s removal of George Orwell’s 1984 from its eBook platform was a prime example of why this was undesirable. But the idea, launched at a joint news conference, has drawn a sceptical reaction from France’s largest publisher, Hachette Livre.

Although Decitre and his fellow CEOs said they represented 70% of the French book market, they still need the backing of publishers to get content.

French publishers including Hachette have already set up their own individual platforms for distributing eBooks, but Decitre said a single collective platform would be “three to five times” cheaper.

Hachette Livre sales director Francis Lang said he was not opposed to a hub, but said the interests of publishers were currently not the same as those of physical booksellers.

“Creating a governance structure where everyone is around the table but their interests are opposed is the best way for this not to go anywhere,” he said.

Spokespeople from Amazon and Google declined to comment.

“This will probably be uniquely French if it succeeds,” says James McQuivey, an analyst with Forrester Research. “Obviously it would be the combination of cultural preservation interests that tend to be unique to France.”

“(If publishers and retailers) do cooperate, it’s not because it’s in their interests,” he added. “(It’s more about) preserving the culture.”

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