Late last week txtr, the Berlin-based ebook subsidiary of 3M, pulled the covers off of, their newest service. When it launches into beta this summer, Blloon will offer readers in the US and UK a completely free reading option.
Users will be able to read up to 3 ebooks each month for free, and paying subscribers who commit to 10 euros per month can read as many titles as they like. Unlike Readfy and 24Symbols, the free reading will not be subsidized by ads. According to Buch Report, the reading will be truly free.
Update: I have just informed by txtr that readers get three free ebooks when they sign up, and not the option to read 3 ebooks each month. Also, txtr says this isn't txtr's service - but they won't disclose who owns Blloon.
Second Update: Txtr might claim to not be behind Blloon but they own the blloon.de domain. I think they're fibbing.and the
And since txtr is expected to launch Blloon with a catalog of a million titles, readers will have many reasons to sign up and read.. That is far larger than the catalogs of Scribd and Oyster, which at last count had around 500,000 titles each, but it doesn't surprise me. Txtr has long offered a whitelabel ebookstore platform that other companies could build on top of (Sony was one of their clients). That platform gave txtr an advantage when it decided to move into the new market; in addition to already having reading apps for Android, iOS, and Windows 8, txtr also has existing deals with many publishers around the world.
Blloon is expected to start a subscriber-limited beta test in the UK this summer, followed shortly afterwards by the US. The service is scheduled to launch in Germany in the first quarter of 2015, and other countries will be added at some time in the future.
In Germany Blloon will be competing against Skoobe and Readfy. The latter is still in beta itself, so in all honesty it might not be around in 2015, but Skoobe is a couple years old and is owned by a couple publishing conglomerates, so I would expect that it will still be here. Outside of Germany, Blloon will have to compete with Scribd, Oyster, and (eventually) .
Out of all the current competitors, txtr is the only one who offers or intends to offer this kind of freemium service. Some of the services offer a free trial (Scribd, for example) but none have taken the gamble to offer an unending freemium plan which would let users read for free.
That is a bold risk on the part of txtr, and it could well give them an advantage over their competitors. But if I had to guess I would say that the 3 free ebooks per month offer will not last. The constant drain on the bottom line will be the first thing to go when txtr decided to cut costs.