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E-Reader-info has some information about the forthcoming hyper-cheap “Beagle” e-reader from txtr, which is scheduled to sell for €9.90 (or about USD $13.00). This could very well be the cheapest E Ink reader ever seen, though the reason becomes obvious when you realize that it’s technically only about half of an e-reader, and that it will also be subsidized by cell phone carriers the way that cell phones commonly are.

The idea behind the device is that it serves as a viewing device for e-books that are actually rendered into images by an associated smartphone, and uploaded over Bluetooth. This lets txtr keep the hardware very simple—all it really does is picture display and paging, no text rendering and the like itself. And the device will be subsidized by mobile operators in return for getting a cut from book sales through that operator’s txtr-operated e-bookstore.

Of course, the device will have the same sort of vendor lock-in as any of the major e-book platforms—any books you buy from txtr will stay in the cloud and can’t be taken with you to another platform. And the article doesn’t mention whether people will be able to load their own documents and content onto it, which would be a bit of a dealbreaker for me (and anyone else who buys from Baen).

Still, using an E Ink display as a sort of ‘dumb terminal,’ and offloading the actual processing tasks to a computing device people already carry around with them is kind of clever. I wonder if this approach might inspire some significantly more ‘open’ imitators down the road?

txtr beagle from txtr on Vimeo.

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