The French love their language. You might remember the resistance the country had to American words on McDonald’s menus. Or perhaps you’ve visited Paris, confident in a basic command of the language, only to find yourself rebuffed when asking for directions, most likely due to a mispronounced word or a disagreeable accent.
Are French publishing houses any different when it comes to literary innovations? As of a year ago, when asked about their digital strategy, a major publishing house replied that they didn’t have one, according to a recent “Pbs.org” article. Part of the reluctance has to do with a law fixing book prices, passed in the 80’s, which prevents mega-stores from glutting the market and also sets book prices well above what readers expect to pay for ebooks. Complicating matters further, ebooks are taxed at close to 20 percent, because they are not classified as books, which have to bound.
Despite a slow beginning when it comes to digital publishing, correspondent Fabrice Neuman predicts the French may be “very good race finishers.” For example, in an effort to make way for the ebook, the French government recently redefined what constitutes a book to include ebooks and challenged the European union regarding book tax laws. At the 33rd Paris Book Fair this year, participants attended an “International Digital Publishing Forum,” and entrepreneurs have come up with a site for books similar to Netflix, called Youboox, where readers can read books online.
Still, nay-sayers remain. A recent study by the Paris-Dauphine Foundation found that “one out of five French people has already read an e-book, but also that more than half of them declared they would never touch one.”
What will happen next? Je ne sais pas.