Txtr beagle: new £8 Kindle rival

Looking for a cheaper alternative to the Amazon Kindle? Well the txtr beagle e-reader will only cost £8. But there’s a catch.

A Berlin based company called txtr is poised to launch a new device that is likely to shake up the whole e-reader market.

The txtr beagle could soon pose a real threat to market leaders like Amazon.

So what has this new challenger got to offer?


The price is right

Well the price is very low. The UK price will be just £8.

That massively undercuts Amazon’s bottom of the range Kindle (£69), the Kobo Mini (£59.99), the Nook Simple Touch e-reader (£79) as well as the Sony PRS-T2 (£119).

But what exactly do you get for this rock bottom price?


No frills

txtr has adopted a bare bones approach and stripped back the e-reader technology to its most basic elements.

The beagle isn’t Wi-Fi enabled, is unable to connect to the 3G network and doesn’t have a rechargeable battery. Instead you need to have a smartphone to transmit up to five books via Bluetooth to the reader and two AAA batteries power the device (enough power to get through 12-15 books a year). The Kindle, by contrast can store 1400 books.

Instead of a touch screen, the device has buttons to turn pages meaning just about everything - including the size of the font - is set on the smartphone before you download the book.



But not all bad

Where the beagle does perform competitively is in size and basic function.

The beagle will be the lightest reader on the market. Weighing in at just 128 grams, it's 42 grams lighter than the Kindle.

It's also small enough to fit into the palm of your hand and transport in a bag or pocket. The device is only 4.8mm thick at its slimmest point but does have a little bulge at the bottom for the batteries.

The product has a five inch screen and like other e-readers uses E-Ink technology to give the sharpest display. Furthermore, the device supports both .pdf and .epub book formats, along with all the others normally supported by a smartphone.



What about the books?

The number of devices out there is vast and their fancy features numerous, but what it really comes down to is what sort of books you can get to read on them.

Consumer champion Which? has reviewed the best eBook stores and generally Amazon's Kindle store scores best.

The txtr bookstore already holds 400,000 titles but that seems like nothing compared to the Kindle Store’s 900,000. That said, my search of a few classics and best sellers didn’t find anything txtr didn’t have - but I guess that will depend on taste.

George Orwell’s 1984 cost £6.99 from the Kindle store but was slightly cheaper on txtr which had the classic novel for £5.49.

However, the first part of the hugely popular trilogy, The Hunger Games, retails for just £2.87 with Amazon but was a costly £6.99 with txtr.

Meanwhile, new title The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling is the same price across both eBook stores at £11.99.



What’s not to like?

The txtr is just a simple no frills e-reader that simplifies the technology rather than complicates it. Many who hate over-complicated gadgets could warm to this product especially at such a reasonable price. But there is just one problem.



The catch

You won’t be able to get the txtr beagle as a standalone product just yet. Instead the plan is to distribute it as an accessory on smartphone mobile phone contracts.

I can understand why txtr is taking this approach, after all it's reliant on a smartphone for transfers, but I'm still disappointed that txtr isn't brave enough to launch the product on its own.

Txtr hope to bring the product to the UK at the beginning of next year but were unable to comment on which mobile phone operators were in the pipeline to offer the device with their contracts.



Verdict

A cheap model that sacrifices a few fancy features is not a big concern but the tie-in with a mobile phone contract is.

But should the beagle be sold separately, then I think the heavyweights like Amazon and Apple could have a lot to worry about.



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