eBook Subscription Services Are Legal in France

youbooxIf you've been following digital publishing news over the past 6 months then you probably know that in late December French regulators expressed doubts that subscription ebook services were legal under France's fixed price book laws. Those doubts solidified into a legal opinion in February 2015 when Laurence Engel, la Médiatrice du livre, ruled that all the existing services were illegal under the letter of the law.

Kindle Unlimited and its local competitors Izneo, Youscribe, and Youboox were given five months to bring their services into compliance with the legal decision. I don't have news yet on Kindle Unlimited but I can report that Youboox, Izneo, and Youscribe are either now legal in France, or will be soon.

The three services had made proposals to Engel which were accepted, and they will be legal once they've changed their practices to match the proposals. They have six months to comply.

Izneo's solution was relatively straightforward: they pulled any digital comic titles not published by MP Group ( about 1% of the 1,500 titles offered via subscription). This move made Izneo's service legal by effectively granting the MP Group control. French law requires that the publisher control the price, and as the only publisher in that particular subscription service MP Group controls the price by default.

In related news, Izneo's retail store boasts 12,000 digital comic titles from over 60 different publishers.

I'm having trouble parsing the details being discussed in the source articles on Youboox and Youscribe, but I can report that my source says both services are legal. Youboox affirms that it will continue to charge a flat 10 euro per month fee.

We are still waiting to learn the steps Amazon will take to make Kindle Unlimited legal in France, and the same goes for Scribd.

Stay tuned.

IDBoox, IDBoox, IDBoox

About Nate Hoffelder (11594 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

9 Comments on eBook Subscription Services Are Legal in France

  1. I suspect it won’t matter.
    It’ll be illegal no matter what they propose.
    Just a wild guess. 🙂

  2. Well, they can’t have it both ways, can they? eBooks aren’t considered as books when it comes to VAT (there is a special low VAT for books in France, it doesn’t apply to ebooks) so how can they be considered as books when it comes to fixed price book law?

    • Actually, the reduced VAT rate does apply to e-books in France. However, this has been ruled to be illegal by the CJEU, though I understand that the European Commission is considering amending the VAT directive in that regard and that contravening countries are dragging their feet so that they do not have to undo legislation that might not be illegal anymore in the near future.

      The dichotomy (e-book/p-book pricing v. VAT rates) lies in the fact that VAT is a EU remit (VAT directive) whereas book pricing rules are subject to national legislation.

  3. If I understand correctly, in the case of Youboox, publishers will basically set a price per page for each book. Therefore, I suppose that by maintaining the 9.99 € fee Youboox figures (or hopes) that the average monthly page-views cost per customer will remain below that threshold. If not, it might have to change its formula, e.g., by creating a premium offer for heavy readers.

    Source: https://www.actualitte.com/article/lecture-numerique/la-mediatrice-du-livre-valide-les-modeles-d-offre-d-abonnement-illimites-d-ebooks/59028

  4. Hello All,

    I am the co-founder of http://www.cyberlibris.com, the oldest firm on that you all can eat subscription / streaming model (since 2001) in France. If you need first-hand info on what’s going on, I can help 🙂 Here is a link to a piece I recently wrote on subscription http://www.thebookseller.com/futurebook/part-1-ku-or-ko-streaming-subscription-and-big-data , Best, Eric

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