Berlin’s Txtr introduces €9.90 e-reader subsidized by mobile carriers

In an effort to turn mobile phone users into ebook readers, Berlin-based Txtr announced a tiny, cheap e-reader, the Txtr Beagle, at the Frankfurt Book Fair Tuesday. While the Beagle is very light — five inches and 128 grams with two AAA batteries — its main selling point is its super-low price. Txtr, which is backed by US company 3M(s mmm), expects that the Beagle will be €9.90 ($12.88 USD) or less when offered through mobile carriers.

“We believe e-reading is a great tool for mobile operators to strengthen their relationship with consumers,” Txtr CEO Christopher Maire said at the Tools of Change Frankfurt conference on Tuesday. He explained that mobile phone operators who subsidize the cost of the Beagle will drive subscriber acquisition and stand out from other mobile carriers. They will also receive a cut of ebook sales.

While the Txtr is indeed small and light, it is a very barebones e-reader that does not include Wi-Fi, a built-in battery or other features that are common on the cheapest American e-readers like the $69 Amazon (s AMZN) Kindle. Readers add ebooks to the Beagle (from Txtr’s Android-based store of 700,000 titles) by connecting it to their smartphone with Bluetooth or by using an Android app (s GOOG) app. (An iOS (s AAPL) app is planned.)

Don’t mistake the Beagle, which runs on two AAA batteries, for a Kindle competitor. Rather, it is aimed at global mobile phone users who don’t read ebooks already and who might not be able to afford a more expensive. “We’re after the 80 percent of of the cell phone market that aren’t digital readers,” chief commercial officer Thomas Leliveld told Publishers Weekly.

Txtr is talking to mobile carriers in China, Japan and Europe and hopes to roll out the Beagle to some countries by the end of the year.