January 4, 2016 / 12:15 PM / in 2 years

Movie-style soundtracks for immersive e-reading

New Zealand-based startup Booktrack is hoping to change the way people read e-books by incorporating a synchronized soundtrack to accompany the on-page action. It’s made up of music, ambient sound and sound effects that dynamically adjust depending on where the reader is up to in the story.

The developers call Booktrack “a disruptive force in the publishing and audio world”, comparable to the how the introduction of sound transformed cinema.

“We are the only enhancement for reading delivered while you read. The most powerful thing about reading is being lost in that reading experience, so what we do is add just one layer of that to get you into the experience quicker and keep you there for longer,” said Paul Cameron, CEO and Co-founder of Booktrack.

Readers can use Booktrack in their browser or download the software on to their smartphone or tablet.

Currently the top three books in the UK on Booktrack are the Sherlock Holmes stories, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and In the South by Salman Rushdie.

It was the commuter market that prompted the idea for Bootrack, said Cameron, after he saw a trend for people putting on headphones while reading to drown out distractions.

“It was people jumping on buses, trains, ferries, the Tube; plugging in their headphones and reading what was a paper book and is now a screen device. We just thought it was a strange behavior; you don’t go home and watch television and turn the volume down and turn the stereo on and listen to unrelated music. So, we thought we could bring that experience together and when we did people really liked it,” he said.

“We’re fighting against all of the other distractions that we have in modern life, and try to carve out a place for books and reading in it. And that’s why you see a rise in audio books, that’s why you see people trying to create immersive experiences that sort of push away at the distractions that can pull you out of reading,” Michael Tamblyn, CEO of e-reader makers Kobo, told Reuters.

He added that innovations like Booktrack bring an added dimension to reading: “How can you make a story different, how can you create a different kind of reading experience? How can you enrich that experience so that it’s more engaging and engaging for different people that might now otherwise engage in books?”

Key to the success of Booktrack’s immersive platform is how their audio software dynamically adjusts to each individual’s reading speed.

“The problem with reading is that everybody reads at a different reading speed. So what Booktrack does is as you read we know how many words are on the page, every time you turn the page we’re measuring how fast or slow you’re reading, and then the soundtrack dynamically adjusts to match,” said Cameron.

This delivers a contextual and synchronized soundtrack played in harmony with the story, Cameron added.

“It’s a bit like having a conductor sitting there going ”hang on a minute, he’s slowed down reading, right; cue the next track“. So it’s dynamically moving with you as you’re reading the story.”

Booktrack has more than 2.5 million users worldwide, and offers over 16,000 titles in 30 different languages.

The company also offers a free tool for authors and self-publishers to create and add soundtracks to their own work by choreograph their text to a database of sounds and music to create their own Booktrack, which can then be made publicly available online.

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