“You cannot open a book without learning something.” -- Confucius

Commerce I've done my fair share of internet shopping this Christmas. I've had many real world shopping days, but almost all of the books and cds have been sent from Amazon or Play.com's warehouses wherever they are. It's cheaper, true and the free delivery over a certain price helps, but also the selection is larger -- you're able to shop based on search terms rather than whatever happens to be on the shelves and although as Barbara Ellen notices today in The Observer there's always the possibility that whatever you order doesn't quite fit with your expectations (which is very true -- one of the books is smaller than I expected -- insert well worn cliche here) it is gratifying to be able to give a present that fits the person exactly rather than some hazier version thought up by the central purchaser for a bricks and coffee-shop shop.

A new ruling in France suggests I should feel guilty about this. Their courts have order Amazon to stop free delivery on their books from the end of the year, as a way of combating their 'illegal' practices and to support the work of small retailers. That's certainly laudable, but I do wonder how it effects consumers throughout the country. In Liverpool, we don't really have any small retailers. In terms of proper book shops, we have Tescos, Waterstones, WH Smith, Blackwells, The Works, Country Book Sale and Borders out in Speke, all chains. There are a couple of second hand bookshops, but our only small book retailer is News From Nowhere and they seem to have found a perfect niche for themselves covering non-mainstream topics.

I don't have a problem with going internet because it's simply an example of shopping around and finding the best price. There must be some places in France like us, where the real-world chains have already mostly swamped the independents and so in those areas this ruling is essentially favouring one type of retailer to the detriment of another with the consumer in the middle paying more for their books. I don't believe this is too similar to the big supermarket ruining the high street because in this case I'm buying exactly the same product online. Fingers crossed then that someone political in the UK doesn't get wind of this and try to score some points by proposing something similar.

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