Monday, January 19, 2015

La France Littéraire

 There is no question that France thinks of itself as a literary country. When visiting, one can not help but notice how many people one sees reading... in parks, in cafés or on public transportation. One also finds so many beautiful bookstores in France. There is a least one if not more in every town & city across the country.  Last July the French government created a law banning discounted books & free shipping for on line books. This law aimed directly at Amazon was formed specifically to protect these small independent book sellers. You can read more about the law here.

These measures were taken not only to protect small business but more importantly to protect French culture & the very way of French life as they know it. At the same time the government declared books to be 'essential good' food & other necessities, which can be taxed at a lower rate. The NY Times had two very good pieces on this subject which can be read here.

Two things I found interesting in reading these articles were:

"On average, a Frenchman reads 25 percent more books per year than an American does."


"In 2008... 14 percent of books published in France were translations from other languages: a key indicator of a nation’s intellectual curiosity and awareness. In the United States, the figure scrapes along at 3 percent."

One thing that I have noticed on a personal level is that when I am in France I read far more than I do when I am in the states. There must be something in the air.

I am linking this discussion of literary France with Paulita's weekly meme 
 Happy reading everyone!


  1. Sally, Interesting observation. Perhaps the extra vacation time that the French take helps them enjoy reading. In the U.S., unfortunately we just watch more TV. Thanks for playing along. Here’s my Dreaming of France meme

  2. This is a fascinating post. I think that law has some real merit to it. Much as I like a good deal on a book, it's nice to know that someone is doing something to protect the smaller stores. Here in Michigan they are trying to get through a law to require any online sites that don't already tax out of state purchases to collect sales tax. I guess the thought is that between shipping and tax, it may not be as good a deal to order online as it seemed before (books or otherwise). It will be interesting to follow. Love your illustrations for this!

  3. that is a sweet dream about france, and i wasn't aware of it, although true, the french do read alot in public places. i shall never think of this the same way, since you pinpoint a reality that actually quite pleases me, in a year i decided myself to read more. it ain't easy, my concentration span being at an extremely low level (i blame the menopause), but i endure. it'll be well worth it. and it does have a knack of calming me down when needed... if i can concentrate, right... ;))) n♥

  4. You have to give the nation credit. I have always noticed that Europeans read much more than Americans-look how many thriving bookstores there are. Go to any park in France and people are reading.

  5. What a great post Sally- it's all so fascinating. I written several posts about the differences between French and Anglophone cultures particularly about reading practices. I heard a little bit about that law, but had forgotten it. Interesting that they take action to protect the bricks and mortar shops when perhaps lower prices would help everyone read more. Perhaps they're happy that everyone reads enough? I do love seeing people reading in parks, you don't see that as much in Australia either- workers at lunchtime sometimes, but people don't go to parks just to read as often.

    Thanks so much for the NYT link- I think the first piece was stronger. It is interesting to think about, it would be nice if Australia were to declare books an essential good, but that will never happen with our current government. The number of books in translation is also important.

  6. Wonderful post and interesting perspective. It seems like most of the people I know, excluding my writer friends, don't read as much as they used to. Myself included. I've vowed to get off the internet and read more, and it's been such a pleasure. I feel like it's keeping me in touch with my youth, as all through my teens and 20s I read voraciously. It's the perfect excuse to slow down, or to go to be early, or to spend an afternoon in the park. I take for granted that Portland, where I live, still has a good amount of independent, neighborhood book stores. I'm headed to the one in my neighborhood today!