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Readmill: Enriching our Reading experience Written by Charmaine Li on 7. December 2011

Lonely bookworms – unite. In a first of its kind, Readmill has today been officially launched on the iPad, to socially transform the way we ‘e-read’. “Our vision is quite clear, we want to build social data around books,” says co-founder Henrik Berggren. Together with David Kjelkerud, the Swedes took their vision to Berlin, where their dream of modernising e-books within the digital and social sphere – was realised. “We don’t want to disturb the reading experience, or replicate the authenticity of physically engaging in a book. That’s just weird,” says Berggren. Instead, Readmill aims to allow people to connect with fellow-readers, comment on books, and share and highlight passages they like. “It’s about enriching the experience, rather than reinventing it,” Berggren added.


What it’s all about

Apart from its stand-out ‘highlighting and sharing’ features, Readmill has a ‘library view’ for users that includes a tracking device of their reading progress with; time spent on reading and a world-map of where it has been read. You can also locate the most popular reading spots in your local vicinity, as well as allow people to see what you’re reading. Like Twitter, you can follow friends and other readers to see what books they’ve sunk their eyes into. There’s also the run-of-the-mill option of sharing information across social networking sites; Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

Once upon a time, there was a book covered in scribble…

For Bergrenn and Kjelkerud, the idea of Readmill was born out of frustration from reading’s solitary confines. But the light-bulb moment really came after they paid a visit to the U.S in November last year, and met with Hunch and FlickR co-founder; Caterina Fake. “She showed us one of her books and said ‘look at all of these (notes), everything here is un-sharable, and no-one could ever read this again,” says Berggren, “that’s when we knew we were onto something.”


Readmill’s ties to Soundcloud

Eric Wahlforss and Alexander Ljung; the brains behind start-up success; Soundcloud, had; not only become Readmill’s Angel investor, but had buddied up with Bergrenn and Kjelkerud at school in Sweden. So, from entrepreneurial-minded students, to big business owners, the four Swedes go way back to classroom days. The Readmill duo, also teamed up with Soundcloud to help develop its platform back in 2008, “but I always wanted to my own thing,” says Bergrenn.

Soundcloud’s not the only company financially backing Readmill. To add to the list is: U.S investor PreHype, London Investor Peter Read, German investor Christophe Maire, and “old friends from Stockholm,” says Bergrenn. Readmill secured a seed investment of 280,000 euros back in September this year, led by U.K venture capitalists; Index Ventures and Passion Capital.

A look at the e-book industry

Anyone, anywhere, can access Readmill for free, but just on the iPad for now. Since its beta-release five months ago, the company has attracted close to 10,000 users, with most – hailing from New York. “We’ve really just scrapped the surface of a business that can be huge,” says Berggren. However, there’s always the contentious issue with publishing houses; hesitant of launching books on the digital platform. But it’s making progress, slowly but surely. The e-book industry is currently up to where the online music industry was – five years ago. So, although it’s got a bit of catching-up to do, online reading is progressing at a much less choppier pace. There’s already a host of publishing houses distributing books in the online-world, including O’Reily and A Book Apart.

The next chapter

As Readmill is a cost-free product, the company’s looking at extra features to make money. A number of ideas include; adopting affiliate programs, and providing the Readmill platform as a base for publishers to market their books. As per usual, programmers are in hot demand to expand on its workforce of nine, and Plans are already underway to launch the app on iPhone and Android devices – next year.