Not only do the French not get fat, understand the subtle arts of seduction, scarf-tying, gastronomy and most recently (per Bringing up Bebe) parenting,  it seems that even the Gallic booksellers are in a better spot than their American colleagues http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/21/books/french-bookstores-are-still-prospering.html?_r=1.  Although I am skeptical of the many hyperbolic  claims associated with French culture—Americans have a peculiar love hate relationship with the French (remember “freedom fries?”) that often renders the land of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité in a less than accurate light, it does seem that French booksellers, thanks to  legal price-fixing (no collusion charges here!)  and government subsidies, do enjoy a considerable advantage over our anemic and Amazon-eviscerated ecosystem. Depending on your politics, the French respect for/protection of booksellers epitomizes everything that’s right or wrong with government, but it does mean that the market for books has remained both stable and lively.  From my French clients—who send me photos of reading tours and well attended signings filled with well-dressed people— I get a glimpse of what seems a pre-lapsarian booksellers’ paradise.  Do I romanticize? Mais bien sur.

I’m not sure that given the present climate in the United States that there is really much likelihood that our model will borrow something from the French, but it is, however, interesting to look abroad at a very different literary landscape and indulge in some armchair travel.

2 Responses to

  1. Lynn says:

    We are definitely book lovers here in France and I’m not talking about e-books! Every year hundreds of books are translated into French from every language around the world. You can find all sorts of books (from Mongolia, Iceland, Turkey or Cambodia to name a few) and not just the classics or bestsellers and for a country that is smaller than the state of Texas that’s saying a lot.

    As Geoffrey Cottrell said, “In America only the successful writer is important, in France all writers are important, in England no writer is important, and in Australia you have to explain what a writer is.” I’m not too sure about the second half of that quote, but the first half rings true about the US and France.

  2. D. C. DaCosta says:

    Lynn-I love that last comment!

    I find this article to be heartening news.

    When I was a student in France in the ’80s, the French were unashamed (if not secretly proud) of not being a nation of readers (except for those who followed the “bandes desinees” — pre-anime comics for grownups). Of course, in those days the sales tax on books was the same as on other “luxury” goods — 33%.

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