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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Berlin’s 'Txtr' Goes From Stumbling E-Reader Startup to Global Digital Distributor

Txtr wanted to create an e-reader ... and actually did produce the first German e-reader prototype ... BUT, increasing competition and speed of associated technology, caused the Txtr powers-to-be to shy away.

What they did do, instead, was to give up developing the hardware RE an e-reader device and devoted their energies to creating apps and platforms for distributing e-reader content.

In other words, Txtr turned would-be, growing, e-reader competitors into clients! A neat business coup, indeed.

Now, this from Amanda DeMarco in Publishing Perspectives:

Txtr Transformed: From E-readers to E-book Distribution

Berlin’s txtr has evolved from a stumbling e-reader startup into a global digital distributor with e-bookstores in 12 countries, 400,000 titles, and several blue chip partners.

BERLIN: In 2009, Berlin-based startup txtr debuted a prototype e-reader — the first for a German company — at the Frankfurt Book Fair. But sometime in early 2010, however, that became an overly ambitious and much-delayed e-reader. On top of the difficulties of getting the device right, an incoming wave of competing e-readers from Asia “looked scary,” says Thomas Leliveld, txtr’s Chief Commercial Officer. It was clear there was “no money to be made” if txtr continued down the path it was on.

Distribution Instead of Devices, Clients Instead of Competitors

Developing hardware is an unforgiving process; you can’t sell an e-reader in beta. Software and services, on the other hand, can be improved incrementally, so txtr shifted its focus to distributing e-books, with device-makers (former competitors) as its main customers.

Basically, if you make an e-reading device, you probably want that device to have its own store. But if you put your resources into the difficult work of developing an e-reader, you may not be well-equipped to create such a platform. That’s where txtr steps in and provides a white-label store for your device. Now that “scary” wave of devices from Asia represents potential clients for txtr.

The key word in txtr’s online bookstore strategy is local: local language, locally relevant content, local payment infrastructure, local management. It has e-book stores in operation in 12 countries, with more opening in the coming months. (txtr accesses experts in each country via a German organization.) txtr powers Acer’s Lumiread store, as well as Asus’s store, and Bol.com (the largest Dutch online bookstore), among others. In all, the company offers more than 400,000 titles available in Western languages; txtr offers 50,000 of those titles in German and has standing distribution agreements with publishers such as Random House and Holtzbrinck.

If you ask Leliveld about competition from certain behemoth online stores, he’ll enthusiastically point out that the market for e-books is expanding rapidly, everywhere, and will probably continue to do so for a long time. There’s room at the table, which is evident when you look at txtr’s recent successes.

An investment from 3M — making it txtr’s largest stakeholder — came as a surprise to many when it was announced in May of this year. The two parties had started talks in April of 2010, and discovered they had “clear similar interests.” In their first collaboration, txtr is providing the e-reading platform for 3M’s Cloud Library eBook Lending Service (but not the hardware, as has been rumored).

Read and learn more (and watch a demonstration of 3M’s Cloud Library in action:


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