Did you mean “Treadmill”?

This summer in Berlin I had the pleasure of meeting the founders of Readmill. I’d been a beta-user of the service for a few months and, truth be told, didn’t know they were a Berlin company until Eric Wahlforss suggested I pay them a visit (as it turns out they share office space with Amen, a company co-founded by my former Plazes colleague Felix Petersen; it’s a small world).

After many months stealthing around in an invite-only beta, Readmill took the covers off yesterday, and anyone can sign up now; if you’re interested in eBook-reading, and you have an iPad, I encourage you to do so, as Readmill is doing some really, really interesting things. Like this:

When will craftsmen learn to avoid the delusions and pitfalls of colour, and assert the strict taste embodied in black and white ?

Highlighted by Peter Rukavina in The printers’ handbook of trade recipes, hints & suggestions relating to letterpress and lithographic printing, bookbinding stationery, engraving, etc. With many useful tables and an index

That’s a embedded version of this highlight I made in this book that I’ve been reading in the Readmill iPad eBook reader after grabbing the free ePub-formatted version of the book from Google Books.

For me the killer feature of Readmill is its highlight-management: here’s a web page listing all the highlights I made while reading that book. Every highlight has it’s own URL — here’s one, for example — meaning that highlights can be emailed, tweeted and otherwise shared. What’s more, all my highlights are also available via an API, meaning that I can search them, sort them, re-use them and tunnel them into other applications and services.

All of this adds up to Readmill being much more than an eBook reader — indeed the Readmill folks will admit that their iPad app is more of a platform catalyst than a “product” in its own right. No, Readmill is really a eBook data management platform: look under the hood and you find all the hooks and infrastructure you need to bake Readmill’s features into any eBook appliance or service. And that’s the real reason why Readmill is exciting.

Which is not to say that Readmill’s iPad eBook reader isn’t also a thing of beauty and elegance: it is, hands down, the best eBook reader for that platform, with just the right mix of simplicity and features to make eBook reading pleasureable and more-than-just-digital-paper. While it’s limited to reading books in the open ePub format (so it can’t read your DRM-locked Kindle and Nook books), that is, net-net, a positive and not a negative, for to be truly useful and practical eBook infrastructure can’t be shackled by the restrictions that DRM imposes (it might be less of a negative for me, I admit, given my interest in books from the 1800s about letterpress, books that are long out of copyright and plentiful in ePub form).

Readmill is the first platform to come along that’s made me excited about the potential of reading digitally: you can friend me up at http://readmill.com/ruk and we can go reading together.