In France they're calling it "the crash of the e-tailers," following a spate of bad news, including the announcement of the closing of Bol.fr, Bertelsmann's online bookseller, which never managed to achieve a viable market share in competition with Amazon.fr, Fnac.com and Alapage.fr (now part of France Telecom). Actually, Bol.fr, like Bertelsmann Web sellers everywhere else, will be folded into the local Bertelsmann book club, to be operated as just another ordering channel. The French trade weekly Livres Hebdo also reports rumors that Amazon.fr will soon curl up and die, after the departure of most of its key personnel, including the president, unless its American management decides to transfer operational responsibility to Amazon.uk. As for Fnac. com, the fact that it is only one of several sales channels of the successful bricks-and-mortar chain, making use of the latter's infrastructure and warehousing, should give it a long lease on life.
And as pessimism reigns on the bookselling side, electronic publishing as such is all but nonexistent in France. Livres Hebdo's analysts note that the only e-book venture that didn't drag its promoters underwater was OohOO (Zero Hour), and that's only because founder Jean-Pierre Arbon sold it to Gemstar before the crash.