txtr beagle: A tiny device set to change it all

Last Friday I visited the Frankfurt book fair to catch a couple of people in the industry – I’ve been busy with some book projects lately – and to see what’s up in the world of reading. Concerning eBooks, many press reports were taken hostage by a company announcing an eBook reader so cheap that it could rewrite the rules of the digital reading game. So I got my hands on the txtr beagle and wow – this will be huge!

Get this: It weighs a little more than 100 grams, has a 800×600 eInk display and will cost – drumroll – a little less than €10! Gee, this is about the same as a McDonald’s menu + the petrol to get your lazy junk-food eating ass to the restaurant!

So, why on earth can they be so cheap and still deliver such a good reading experience (at least this was what I thought when I toyed around with it for a little while)? Well, for starters, this little device is as dumb as a stump and can do nothing more than showing images. The idea is that you purchase your regular eBook (via txtr.com for instance, as they are an eBook distributor) and first have it transformed by the txtr smartphone app. This app allows you to change the text properties such as font size, handles the whole DRM business and afterwards turns the book into image files. Secondly, those files are transferred to the device via bluetooth. In other words, the txtr beagle only works as a second screen, being able to hold 5 ebooks in its 4GBs of RAM. So the device only works in combination with a smartphone, which is the reason why right now, txtr tries to get the big Telco’s on board to sell the beagle to their customers as smartphone accessory.

Another reason for being able to offer this device at such a price is that it will be heavily subsidised, similar to the way in which Amazon distributes its Kindle Fires. If you create a large enough customer base and establish your hardware platform, you will then be able to earn your money by selling content.

What makes me wonder the most, though, is this: Imagine you’d buy a couple of those devices once they can be purchased (which in Germany will be at the beginning of 2013 – before that, they’ll test-drive their business model by selling 200,000 devices in China). In theory, you can have one legally purchased eBook in your txtr smartphone app and distribute it to all of them! If you love the book  you’ve just read, you can transfer it to your friend’s device – or even buy one for him if he doesn’t own one yet. In the traditional model, sharing of most eBook content still is impossible due to DRM restrictions. With beagle, it becomes possible: As I said before, those things aren’t clever at all and have no possibility to “phone home” in order to check (and to prohibit) those type of things. If business models come to your mind right now … yup! (Remember, the punks said it first!)

With this in mind, I certainly wonder how publishers will react to this possible “leak” in the model. But if txtr will deliver and get the Telcos and publishers onboard, it has the potential to become a truly disruptive platform!

About Roman Zenner
Ich bin ich

3 Responses to txtr beagle: A tiny device set to change it all

  1. AB says:

    Nice one, Ro!
    Can´t say i understood the business model completely, but sounds intriguing!

    Alter, das ist ja der Hammer, aber der Weg zum Gerät muss einfacher werden!
    Ansonsten, not bad!

  2. Alexander says:

    Have you tried to link it to a smartphone app Roman?
    I guess the app will be able to remember the devices it sent the ebooks to?

    • Roman says:

      No, the app hasn’t been presented yet unfortunately. But according to the sales guy, the devices are completely interchangeable and have no unique id or something like that. As soon as the app is available, we should definitely give a try!

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