I'm still waiting for Readmill to deny the report, but I believe it's true and I bet I can tell you why Dropbox wants Readmill.
Update: Readmill has confirmed the acquisition.
According to what we’re hearing, the deal value is around $8 million, made up of mostly stock but with a small amount of upfront cash for the startup’s founders who will be moving to Dropbox in San Francisco. What will happen to Readmill is unclear — I pinged co-founder and CEO Henrik Berggren for comment late yesterday but have yet to hear back so all of this is unconfirmed. However, considering this is a talent acquisition, it’s likely the service will be shuttered or possibly kept going with minimal support in the near term. The acquisition also points to a trend of consolidation and a number of exits coming out of the Berlin tech scene.
I can give you three reasons why Dropbox wants Readmill:
I think Dropbox wants to build online collaboration tools for its business customers.
Aside from simply sharing an entire file, Dropbox doesn't have any collaboration tools at the moment, but I bet they want to build something like Google Docs. While I have no proof, it is the next logical step after letting people share a file.
I know it might sound strange for Dropbox to be interested in Readmill's social reading platform, but Readmill currently enables readers to share note, highlights, and their other reading habits. That's really only half a step away from what I think Dropbox wants, which is for 2 or more Dropbox users to edit a shared document online.
This would explain the recent purchase of Zulip, a startup that was still in private beta. Zulip is a workplace chat solution, and I'm sure you would agree that enabling 2 people to discuss the document they are co-editing would be a useful feature.
I'm still waiting for confirmation or denial, but at this point I think this story is true - for the most part. That is no guarantee that the deal will happen, but if it does I would bet that Dropbox plans to announce the acquisition and the new features on 9 April.
Dropbox reportedly has an event planned on that day where they plan to announce new features. While the rumor did not mention collaboration tools, it would make sense for Dropbox to announce them at that event.
Unless the deal falls through, in which case we probably won't hear anything at all.
If I were a more frequent user of Readmill I would be praying that the parties couldn't come to terms. This deal will probably result in the death of Readmill's existing platform. Even if it survives, it's going to lose several key people as they turn their attention to building Dropbox's new collaboration tools. As a result the current platform could wither away.