But all is not well there. Jerry Lewis isn’t the only case of French and American tastes diverging. While e-books might make up 20-30 percent of the American market—pick your stats—they were just 6.4 percent of the book market in France in 2014.
The figure comes from Syndicat nationale de l’edition, a publishers’ organization. A Marketplace article, France’s indie bookstores thrive in the age of Amazon, which I cited in an earlier version of this post, got the figure wrong at 2.8 percent. Perhaps Marketplace confused total sales with consumer e-book sales (yes, a bit under three percent). The French e-book sales are heavily concentrated in such areas as professional publishing, Nate reminds us. Some good news is that total 2014 sales are up 53 percent from 2013. Meanwhile I’ll welcome fresher stats.
Mind you, it isn’t as if France is the worst major country for e-books, but at least on the consumer-sales side, it could be doing much better, given all the great innovation at places such as Mantano and Feedbooks. The anti-discount laws and others discussed in the Marketplace article could be a reason.
Perhaps, as a more urbanized country than the United States, France is less appreciative of the ease with which e-books can be distributed. Not to mention the famous French love of good aesthetics (so evident in the design of hardware and Web sites such as Feedbooks). Probably tradition and misplaced cultural pride are the main factors in the consumer area, considering the heavy adoption rate of e-books on the professional side (two-fifths of publishers’ professional sales in 2014), where readers might care less about polished presentation and more about information.
Whatever the reasons, I hope the French will ponder the negatives of e-book-hostile laws and policies—in this era when so many poor people from Muslim countries have migrated. Good public e-libraries and inexpensive e-books, whether from Amazon or elsewhere, could be one way to speed up the assimilation process and reduce tensions.
Related: The French get exceptionally stupid, 2013 commentary from Paul St John Mackintosh. Excerpt: “France certainly has a culture worth protecting and promoting—its intellectual and artistic prestige is vast. And the preservation of linguistic and cultural difference and diversity across Europe is an absolute, urgent priority. But state power is the last, worst instrument to achieve that, not least because it tends to weaken and emasculate the very social and cultural bodies it is supposed to protect. The heavy hand of the French state has lain on the French language and French culture for decades, and both are still in decline. Could there be a connection?”
(Revised to rely on better information than the Marketplace article supplied.)
Photo credit: Here.