Google’s E-Books Store Will Start Off With Around 500,000 Titles

Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is slowly rolling out details about its forthcoming online e-books store, which it is calling Google Editions. At the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany this week, the company said that the store — which will compete with Amazon’s rival offering — will launch in June 2010, according to Reuters and reports. That’s a change from June, when Google’s Tom Turvey told publishers that the company would launch the store by the end of 2009. Unclear why there’s been a delay, especically considering that Turvey was particulary emphatic in announcing the date back then, saying, “This time we mean it.” (We’ve asked Google for clarification).

Some other new details about the effort, from the reports:

— Google Editions will start off with 500,000 titles. That’s more than Amazon’s Kindle, which claims to have “more than 350,000 books, newspapers, magazines, and blogs available.” The numbers, however, might not be comparable since Google could be counting the copyright-expired texts that it is already making available on some e-readers.

— Also unlike the Kindle, Google is emphasizing that Google Editions will be device-agnostic, meaning that the titles will be readable on any device with a browser. Users will also be able to access the texts they have purchased when they’re not connected to the internet via a cached version.

— The company is planning to give publishers a big cut of revenues. Publishers will get 63 percent of the revenues from books sold on Google Editions, while Google will keep the other 37 percent. Google had previously announced that third-party retailers — including Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) — would be able to resell access to the books, and the company now says that in those cases the third-party retailer will get 55 percent of the revenue, while the publisher will get 45 percent. Google will take a small percentage.

In initially announcing the project, Google had also announced one other advantage for publishers: They will be able to set their own prices. By contrast, Amazon sets the prices in its Kindle store.

The consensus seems to be that while Google won’t displace Amazon as the e-books leader, it could force Amazon to provide publishers with better financial terms. Then again, Amazon obviously has a big headstart here.