Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Readmill Aims to Make Digital Reading Social

Reading remains mainly a solitary activity, and perhaps that’s the way it always will be. But as e-books become popular, opportunities to share and personalize the digital reading experience are increasing.

Readmill, a soon-to-launch iPad app and accompanying Web site, helps users highlight passages in the e-books they are reading, and turns those passages into shareable, embeddable permalinks. So just as you might post a YouTube video on your blog or Twitter, Readmill will allow you to share quotes.

There is, of course, an underlying social network where users can follow each other’s reading histories. Users can also post comments and minireviews about the books they’re reading, which could eventually help inform book recommendations.

And the Readmill app has some nifty features that quantify personal reading stats by visually depicting for users how far along in a book they are, and how much they’ve read per session. Readmill founder Henrik Berggren showed me, for instance, that he spent 21 hours over the span of six months reading the epic novel “Shantaram.”

For now, since Readmill works only with EPUB books rather than proprietary formats, it mainly has access to older classics.

What Berggren would like to do is get the Readmill API included in e-book applications, to bring a social reading experience to larger libraries and user bases. He said he’s making some progress on that front, but it’s slow. Market leader Amazon Kindle is “proprietary to the core,” he said.

Both Kindle and Nook already have some social features. Amazon, in fact, has come under fire for automatic-sharing settings. Berggren argued that Readmill offers a superior social experience because it’s built to be social from the ground up.

Currently the Berlin-based Readmill team is working on a marginalia mode for its next release, which will make it easier for users to share their comments directly within books. Berggren said the service should open to the general public in the next couple months.

Readmill has raised about €300,000 ($431,460), led by Index Ventures and Passion Capital.

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