In 1981, France passed the Lang Law, named for then-Minister of Culture Jack Lang. La loi Lang fixed the prices of new books—whatever the publisher wants, the publisher gets—and set the maximum discount booksellers can offer at five per cent. The idea was to keep bookselling local; if they couldn’t slash prices, megastores like the FNAC, France’s answer to Best Buy, would hardly have an advantage over a tiny corner shop.Now the threat is digital. E-books and books purchased on Amazon are also subject to the five-per-cent law. Nevertheless, at a conference held in June by the national booksellers union, Minister of Culture Aurélie Filippetti accused Amazon of driving prices down in order to raise them once a monopoly had been secured. The concept is so repellent to national sentiment that an English word has been commandeered to describe it: dumping. “Everybody has had enough of Amazon,” Filippetti, a novelist herself, said. She was right. Last Thursday, the National Assembly approved an amendment to the Lang Law that would bar online booksellers from engaging in “unfair competition” by offering free shipping on reduced-price books.The Lang Law was the work of a Socialist government. Last week’s amendment, which is expected to glide easily through the Senate, was sponsored by four members of the conservative UMP, and won unanimous backing from both parties. (President François Hollande, once photographed flipping through “French History for Dummies” in his bathing suit, is in favor of it, too.) France has lately been operating at a level of political discord only slightly lower than ours, with heated fights over gay marriage, the rise of neo-Fascism, and headscarves, yet the status of the reader remains one of the few uncontroversial features of le patrimoine français. Nearly three-quarters of the adult French public reads at least one book a year; a fifth reads twenty or more, a statistic that has remained consistent over the past two decades. As online sales rise, Amazon has come to be seen in France as le mastodonte américain, the mammoth capitalist interloper rumbling across the Atlantic to trample on the delicacies of culture.