Here’s one way of preventing Amazon’s hegemony over book sales: in France, book prices are fixed by law so they cost the same amount whether you buy them online, in a chain shop like Fnac or in a small independent bookshop. When I was living in Paris during my year abroad, the stingy student side of me was a bit miffed that it was impossible to get new books at a discount. On the other hand, it means that there are still a lot of independent bookshops which are managing to stay open (about 400 in Paris) and that can only be a good thing.
The Saint-Germain district in Paris is a book-lover’s dream. I mostly bought second-hand books at Gibert Joseph and the flea markets in Saint-Ouen but I did treat myself to a complete edition of Persepolis by Marjane Sartori which I bought in a beautiful shop called La Hune on the boulevard Saint-Germain (although I believe it has now moved to a different address nearby). Like every other English-speaking tourist, I made a pilgrimage visit (or six) to Shakespeare and Company but I actually preferred Village Voice which was much less touristy. Unfortunately, it was so quiet that it was forced to close down earlier this year as English-language bookshops in France don’t benefit from state subsidies. The WHSmith on rue de Rivoli is hilarious – as well as English-language books and magazines, it also stocks typical culinary delicacies such as shortbread, Marmite and tins of Heinz baked beans!
The French have yet to embrace eBooks. On one hand, this doesn’t surprise me at all given the pricing laws, the slow introduction of e-readers into the French market and the strong cultural attachment to the printed page. On the other hand, the French also secretly love things that they claim to hate (like fast food and Starbucks) so maybe eBooks will gain popularity after a few years of resistance.