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Outcry from publishers against the authorization of advertising for books on television

Television advertising for books is now authorized but publishers are against it, fearing that it will harm the diversity of literature.

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Outcry from publishers against the authorization of advertising for books on television

Television advertising for books is now authorized but publishers are against it, fearing that it will harm the diversity of literature. Except one of them, who launched without waiting for his competitors.

This authorization, envisaged in a public consultation by the Ministry of Culture in January and February, came by surprise from a decree from the Prime Minister on April 5. A week later in the daily Les Échos, Minister Rachida Dati defended this “experiment”. The objective, according to her, is “to encourage the French to cross the threshold of a bookstore (...) to buy a bestseller and leave with three other books under their arm”.

“Booksellers don’t really believe in this effect,” said the general delegate of the French Bookstore Union, Guillaume Husson. If a reader discovers a bestseller thanks to a television ad, he will only buy that one. And he will then remain a very occasional reader. “We believe much more in the risk for editorial diversity. And we say it again at a time when the number one publishing company, Hachette Livre, has just been bought by Vivendi, which not only owns television channels, but also an advertising group, Havas,” he adds. .

According to Olivier Bessard-Banquy, professor of literature at Bordeaux Montaigne University, “the political choice is clear”: “The government is making that of the liberal market. We had already seen, at the beginning of the 2000s, when this advertising was authorized on cable channels, that only very mainstream titles from the most powerful structures benefited from it.

The publishing industry was taken by surprise. “We are very surprised that it happened like that, suddenly,” declared Antoine Gallimard, the boss of the most prestigious French publishing house, on France Inter. “We had always said that we were against it, all publishers, in the name of diversity.”

The management of Editis, number two in France in publishing, is also unfavorable. Also on France Inter, its president Denis Olivennes feared that TV advertising could “accelerate the concentration of the market on its biggest sellers, to the detriment of diversity, because only the best-sellers can bear the costs of advertising at the same time. television". Editis is, however, the parent company of XO editions, which have taken the plunge. A week after the decree, they launched their spot on BFMTV for Les Effacées, a detective novel by Bernard Minier.

XO, on the fringes of the cozy world of letters, asserts its vocation as a publisher of bestsellers. He published Emmanuel Macron's only work, Révolution, in 2016. And it is with, among other things, radio ads and videos on YouTube, in the absence of broadcast on the small screen, that he boosted notoriety by Guillaume Musso, number one in sales in France without interruption from 2011 to 2022. “The founder of our house, Bernard Fixot, invented book advertising on the radio. He has continued to campaign to open this possibility to one of the most powerful media: television,” said the two directors of this house, Edith and Renaud Leblond, in a press release.

The debate should be resolved within the professional organization, the National Publishing Union. Questioned by AFP on Monday, the latter replied that it would make its position known on a date not yet determined. “It is a sector conscious of its relative economic fragility compared to others,” notes David Martens, professor of literature at the University of Louvain (Belgium). “So there is a certain esprit de corps. When it comes to speaking about these issues, he does it with one voice.”

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