With access to 400,000 titles from the Beagle marketplace, no apparent way to transfer other ebooks to the device, even at the low asking price, its doubtful the big name brands will even notice its existence.

E-book readers (and in particular those which facilitate e-ink) are very popular, for me the idea of leaving the “dead-tree” world filled me with dread until I experienced the Kindle and found that actually, its very good.  As ebooks gain in popularity there are numerous mediums available to the purchaser though one which will always remain a mystery to me (since I find it very uncomfortable) are ebooks on phones, which I’ve said numerous times that after any extended period it becomes rather uncomfortable and tiring to read.

I’m looking at the Guardian today for the purposes of this article which is reporting a new e-ink, ebook reader which they write about under the title of “Kindle under fire from low-cost ‘txtr beagle’ e-reader” – A dramatic and wholly inacurate headline in my view, but then this is the Guardian so I don’t expect either Guardian staff or its readerbase will see any problem with that.  Reported at being available for around £8 this twin AAA powered device with significantly less storage capacity, a slightly smaller screen, no WIFI or 3G and having to be loaded with ebooks via Bluetooth on an Android or iPhone, is going in some way to disturb Amazon or indeed any of the other great e-ink devices.

As I say, this is the Guardian, so read into that as you will and whilst I can see the Beagle being a desirable device to take maybe where you don’t want to risk one of your more expensive devices, or something maybe for the younger members of the family or even unsure e-ink readers, the idea that it would pose a challenge to any of the big names is utterly preposterous.

I am assuming (since unsurprisingly the Guardian doesn’t seem to mention/know the file format it uses) that it will accept .epub at the very least, however it appears that the only transference of data to the device will be via the Beagle store, which means any ebooks you currently own now no matter what format, will not be able to be transferred onto this device.  Also if you are one of the few to own a Windows Phone, there appears to be little point in you buying this device, there’s no software to accommodate you.

So that’s a new marketplace and a cheap device that requires batteries and can’t store as many titles.  This is going to worry Amazon is it?  The blurb from the official site says:

Only 100cc, the txtr beagle is the smallest eReader in the world. It is mostly just 5mm thick . It weighs just 128 grams, making it the world’s lightest 5″ or 6″ E Ink eReader available. This device fits easily in any pocket or handbag. Unlike other eReaders, there is no need for chargers or cables. The location of the batteries not only creates an elegant silhouette but also becomes an ergonomic feature as it rests easily in the palm of a hand.

Its a very nice idea to have a cheap e-book reader, it would have been even nicer if it had a USB transfer facility and it would have been even nicer if the caveat of this cheaper device was not that you were linked to a new marketplace.

So now we maybe come to the biggest question of all.  The device is reported to cache (and I assume it means store internally) upto 5 titles.  Not a problem, however in its specifications its listed as having 4 GB of memory.  4gb? Either this is a typo and it meant to say mb, or there’s a great amount of it going to waste as I can’t see the system software requiring all the rest.

So the Beagle represents a curiosity, it also represents a mystery.  What it doesn’t represent in my view is a competitor to any of the big name brands or market-places.

And to end on a lighter note, here’s some of the official text:

No chargers. No cables. No hassle.
Read for more than 1 year

Great you may think? Look underneath though and read:

Two AAA batteries enable you to read 12-15 books per year.

Which tickled me somewhat, since I can sometimes read that amount in a month and maybe proves the point – you should always read the small print.

Anyone read a book a month? I’d say for the average book a week would be long enough.

The official site can be found here: http://gb.txtr.com/beagle/

Mail: bytes4free@googlemail.com

Skype: tim.openbytes