More details on txtr's $13 Beagle e-reader

A couple of weeks ago txtr unveiled their Beagle e-reader - a 5" E Ink device that is powered from two AAA batteries and connects to their Android e-reader software via Bluetooth. txtr said they want to partner with network operators to subsidize the device and their planned price is €9.90 (about $13). Their PR wasn't very clear, and now we have some more info from txtr's Chief Commercial Officer, Thomas Leliveld.

txtr Beagle photo

So first of all, it turns out that the txtr eBook platform uses PDF and ePub formats on the smartphone itself, which renders the pages into bitmaps and sends these to the beagle (via Bluetooth). This means that the beagle is really a very "dumb" terminal for the software. According to txtr this makes a lot of sense - everybody has a smartphone already which is great as an eBook platform. Making the e-reader itself simple allows them to reduce the price and complexity. The beagle can store several books (it's not as if you need to be connected to the phone while reading).

This also means that you will have to go through txtr's bookstore for your books. And here where the network operator comes into play. They will subsidize the device and in return they'll get a revenue share from books sold through the device and also increase their customer loyalty (it'll be more difficult to move to a different operator because you already have books in the cloud). Each operator will get its "own" bookstore (designed and deployed by txtr). The books will be paid through the operator's monthly bill which is quite convenient for the user.

Txtr says that another benefit for the operator is increased customer loyalty as it'll be more difficult to move to a different operator because you already have books in the cloud (although they use ePub so I'm not sure on that one). I really don't like the sound of that - I think that if you buy a book you should be able to read it even if you leave to a different operator. People often criticize Amazon because they do not offer an open format. But at least you can keep your old Kindle and read on many devices and tablets too using their software.

There was some confusion on the web regarding the client. Currently they only support Android smartphones (with auto-pairing in 4.x). iOS support will come soon and they hope that by the end of 2012 they will release a Windows 8 client too.

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