One of the great things about spring break is having enough time to sit down and get some reading done. It was a shock, then, to find out that social reading platform Readmill is shutting down because Dropbox acqui-hired its staff, who will be joining the Dropbox team in San Francisco. What was Readmill? Launched in 2011, Readmill was a reading app for iOS and Android made by people who “believed that the reading experience could be beautiful and that it was meant to be shared.” It was also the only really social reading app on the market, because in addition to its good looks, it allowed users to share highlights and annotations with other readers around the globe, see what friends were reading, and comment on each other’s highlights and annotations. It also had an API that allowed other developers to integrate Readmill users’ data into other applications. After July 1, 2014, all of that will be gone.
Why should you care that Readmill is gone, especially if you’ve never heard of it before today? Well, as Publishers Weekly notes, the demise of Readmill makes the future of social reading—that is, platforms allowing readers to share and comment on each other’s reading—very uncertain. It has never been very clear how many people actually used Readmill (the “editor” account has “1,000+” followers, which perhaps provides a rough estimate), so it’s unclear how much demand there is for a service that integrates social media directly into the reading experience. Certainly the popularity of Goodreads (with more than twenty-five million users) suggests that readers like to talk about their reading online, but that doesn’t mean they wants to read books there. Whether the failure of Readmill and services such as Findings to successfully incorporate text-clippings from ereaders into the social media landscape dooms the future of social reading or not, time alone will tell. In the meantime, we’re still on the lookout for another reading app.
Update: See also Corey Pressman’s post at Publishing Perspectives: “On the demise of Readmill and secondary orality.”