Although Amazon's most affordable Kindle is now only $69, German company Txtr believes there's plenty of room for competition in the budget ereader market, unveiling a new device that costs about as much as a paperback. At €10 (about $13), the new Txtr Beagle is easily the least expensive E Ink-equipped ereader around -- though, as you might expect, that price brings a pretty barren feature set.
For instance, the Beagle doesn't have Wi-Fi or 3G or a built-in rechargeable battery, it only packs a five-inch 800x600 non-backlit E Ink display, and you'll need a smartphone to transfer data to the device. That last part is a key piece of the puzzle, as Txtr reportedly plans to offer the Beagle as a smartphone accessory through carries such as AT&T and Sprint, which explains its too-good-to-be-true price.
Txtr provides an Android 4.0 application (an iOS app is due soon) and this lets you shift content from your handset to the Beagle over Bluetooth, which seems to be the device's only baked-in connectivity. As noted, there's no integrated battery, so there's not even a power jack. The Beagle runs off two AAA batteries, which supposedly provide more than a year's worth of reading time (or about 12 to 15 books).
The Beagle has 4GB of integrated storage and no card slot. It's worth noting that the company's site says the ereader can only cache up to five books at a time. Some folks have taken this to mean that it can hold just five books at once, but that doesn't make sense given the 4GB of storage. More likely, you can have five books open for quick access at any time. Hopefully Txtr clarifies this specification.
While the Beagle's five-inch screen may be a little more cramped than the cheapest Kindle's five-inch display, its compact nature allows Txtr to better market the device as a smartphone companion. The company says its ereader is the lightest and smallest offering available, weighing only 128 grams with batteries (111 grams without) and measuring 140 x 105 x 4.8mm (14mm where the batteries go).
It's unclear if Txtr will sell the Beagle as a standalone, unsubsidized unit, but the company plans to provide means of transferring books from Bluetooth-equipped PCs. Even if the device is only officially available through carriers, we'd expect it to appear on auction sites for a slight premium and you wouldn't need a smartphone. At $20, it would still be a decent value and give hackers a cheap toy to play with.