IIt would seem that a big bad wolf is about to devour the largest part of French publishing: it is to better love us, we are told, to better defend authors, booksellers and the entire ecosystem of the French publishing… As everyone knows, Editis, the second largest French publishing group owned by Vincent Bolloré, is preparing to take over Hachette, the leading French group. [Depuis le 14 juin, le groupe Vivendi détient 57,35 % du groupe Lagardère, propriétaire notamment de la maison d’édition Hachette. Ce rachat n’a pas encore été approuvé par la Commission européenne.] His idea ? Build a megagroup, French and international, an information giant capable of competing with Amazon and Google.
If this merger took place, what would happen to the diversity of French publishing? Would the sometimes precarious situation of authors be improved? Would the excellence of our network of bookstores be strengthened? Without even mentioning the freedom of the press or the editorial independence of the houses which would thus find themselves united in this megagroup… To these questions, we answer no.
Even more than feminine intuition, our shared experience as independent editors – this year we are celebrating our 20, 30 and 40 years in the business – authorizes us to declare it loud and clear: such a merger would considerably weaken the wealth, the diversity and dynamism of the French editorial landscape. Our profession is articulated between craftsmanship and industry. This megagroup, as it is taking shape today, would totally upset the balance of the market and would jeopardize all independent publishing, because the repercussions of a concentration never reached to date, by its size and scope, would be felt throughout the book chain.
Currently, independent publishers outsource their dissemination-distribution to third-party entities that ensure their presence on the market. We still have the choice today between various interlocutors, which allows us to negotiate our contracts. The proposed acquisition would bring together, within a single entity, the broadcasting and distribution platforms of Hachette and Editis, which would represent more than 50% of the market. As for access to the smallest outlets, it would de facto be 100% in the hands of the new megagroup, a monopoly situation that is harmful both for publishers and for these smaller outlets.
On the bookstore side, this megagroup would represent 59% market share in general literature, 65% in pocket and 83% in extracurricular, according to the evaluation company GfK, not to mention its weight in the best sellers. Bookstores would therefore find themselves faced with considerable pressure from this giant, which would necessarily try to dictate its conditions to them: lower discounts, favoring quantity over quality. In short, the complete opposite of Lang’s law [de 1981, relative au prix du livre], which primarily remunerates the qualitative aspect of the booksellers’ work, in particular their advice and their reading – time-consuming work which allows editorial diversity to exist. This pressure would be deleterious.
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