9. October 2012–
Berlin-based txtr today released what it claims is the world's smallest eReader – the txtr Beagle. It’s a move aimed at both mobile network operators and the large swathe of the world's population not currently reading digital books.
Whether or not a small screen – 5 inch, eInk – is good for reading is up for debate but the expected price is definitely as good as it gets. Txtr's Chief Commercial Officer Thomas Leliveld said he expected the device to be available for as low as €9.90, "up to ten times cheaper than other players in the market" (though that might be as part of a wider mobile plan – read on for more).
The device – "designed simply for reading" – has no ability to connect to the internet itself, as Publishers' Weekly reports. Rather, new books are added by connecting it to a smartphone via Bluetooth and using the txtr smartphone app (available for Android, with iOS up next).
It runs on two AAA batteries, which will give life for over a year, assuming we're reading 12-15 books per year under "normal use" conditions.
New direction for txtr – and mobile network operators
Today's announcement, delivered at the Frankfurt Book Fair, is an intriguing new direction for txtr, founded in 2008 by Christophe Maire (an early-stage investor in Berlin startups including SoundCloud, Amen, Gidsy and social reading platform Readmill).
So far, txtr – billed as a tech B2B company – has offered "end-to-end eReading solutions" including online ebook stores, personal library storage and an international ebook catalogue with up to 400,000 titles. The company's clients can either choose to make the most of txtr's branded offerings or partner up for their own "white label" solutions.
The release of the Beagle is part of the same "end-to-end" plan but is intended to be a game changer, providing a device that could allow mobile network operators – such as T-Mobile, one of txtr's existing partners – to take a stronger spot in the digital books market.
This will presumably include the option for the txtr Beagle to be included as a premium in phone plans, with the company currently in conversations with potential partners in Asia, Europe and the US. As txtr said in a statement:
Weight, size and battery life do matter for mobile devices. The txtr beagle excels in each of them, since it was developed to unlock a new distribution channel that holds tens of millions of active users. Txtr wants the network operators to partner in helping to grow the number of consumers reading digital books, at a much faster pace."
Txtr's backers include US-headquartered multinational 3M (NYSE:MMM), which invested an undisclosed sum in 2011.
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