Bonjour, Amazon. Kindle Store Debuts In France With Its First French Kindle

Yesterday Google (NSDQ: GOOG) launched its first eBookstore outside of the U.S. in the UK, but it will have to step up the pace by quite a bit more if it hopes to catch up to Amazon’s footprint abroad. Today, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) launched the latest of its bookstores abroad, in France, along with the first French-language Kindle, three weeks after Amazon launched a portal the Kindle store in Spain.

Given that the original English-language Kindle launched nearly four years ago, and that Amazon has nearly as much business outside of the U.S. as it has domestically, it’s a surprise that it has taken the company so long to get the Kindle out the door in France. In the company’s last quarterly earnings reported in July, Amazon noted that international business was up 36 percent, up to $4.51 billion. By comparison, U.S. sales were $5.4 billion.

While getting a strong catalog of books up was probably a reason for the delay, one suspects that another might have been the keyboard. Making a special French-language keyboard presumably ate into Amazon’s margins too much. A keyboard-free version of the e-reader means that Amazon only needed a software upgrade to make the device Francophonic-friendly.

Amazon says the store will be kicking off with 35,000 titles in French, including 4,000 free French classics and “hundreds” of graphic novels, a format that is very popular in France. Amazon says it will also be offering 28 best sellers, as compiled by the newspaper L’Express, which Amazon says makes the Kindle store the one offering the most bestseller titles in digital in all of France. Overall the French Kindle Store will have 825,000 titles, including those in other languages.

Along with the store will be a product on which to consume the content. Amazon today is also launching its first French Kindle product, the six-inch, WiFi-only version without a keyboard, which is selling for €99 ($133). It is now available for pre-order and will be officially released on October 14.

As with the Kindle stores in other countries, Amazon will be opening up the platform to self-published authors as well, and will also be including French newspapers and magazines, including Le Monda, Les Echos, Le Figaro and Liberation — all either as single purchases or subscriptions. Similarly, all Kindle purchases will also be usable with the Kindle reading app for various platforms such as iPad, iPod touch, iPhone, PC, Mac and Android devices. No word on which operators will be providing connectivity for the Whispersync service.