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New Left Review 76, July-August 2012


Emilie Bickerton

PAPER EMPIRES

Browsing for books in France still holds the promise of discovery in the country’s three thousand independent shops—triple the number to be found in Britain. [1] Thierry Discepolo, La Trahison des éditeurs, Agone: Marseille 2011, €15, paperback, 205 pp, 978 2 7489 0151 1 A wide range of books are stocked at their cover price, in contrast to the mountains of discounted titles filling the predominant chainstores in the us and uk. Small publishing houses, as well as the outlets likely to read and recommend their lists, are kept afloat by the exception culturelle and prix unique du livre when the industry otherwise is driven by speed and profit margins, not the originality and rigour of content. But the French model is progressively aligning itself with the market-oriented system elsewhere, in which new books tend to be catalogued months in advance, or are gap-fillers—bought already written, usually by a celebrity chef or sportsperson’s ghost-writer, and churned out immediately to meet the targets for that fiscal year. Like washing machines and cars, the aim is for the shortest possible shelf-life.

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