---- Amazon pays $1,500 in daily fines in defiance of French law
wheel - 4:20 pm on Jan 17, 2008 (gmt 0)
To summarise - the law is to help ensure that a wide range of books remains available to French book purchasers.
There's similiar laws in Canada. Heritage protection laws means that Canadian bookstores must buy their books from Canadian distributors - even if they can get the same book in the US cheaper. I believe this law is what actually prompted Amazon to open in Canada. They were shipping too many books into Canada bought from non-canadian publishers (I'm likely paraphrasing, but that's my limited understanding).
It's intended to help support Canadian artists and the publishing community (whether the gov't should be protecting them is a different argument). What it's done is that Canadian consumers have to pay higher prices on books than they might if bookstores could buy books from the US less expensively (and books are less expensive in the US, particularly with the dollar as it is).
What Canadian bookstores do to circumvent this is to just buy their books from the US and ignore the law. That's probably not the best solution, but I've never seen anyone get charged with it.