The New York Times: August 23, 2011
Bells and Whistles for Some EBooks
In the film versions of "Pride and Prejudice" the music jumps and swells at all the right moments, heightening the tension and romance of that classic Jane Austen novel.
Will it do the same in the e-book edition?
Booktrack, a start-up in New York, is planning to release e-books with soundtracks that play throughout the books, an experimental technology that its founders hope will change the way many novels are read.
Its first book featuring a soundtrack is "The Power of Six," a young-adult novel published by HarperCollins, soon to be followed by "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "Jane Eyre," "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Three Musketeers."
"It makes a new and engaging way to read and really enhances the experience and enhances your imagination and keeps you in the story longer," Paul Cameron, Booktrack's 35-year-old co-founder and chief executive, said in an interview. "And it makes it fun to read again. If you're not reading all the time, it might help you rediscover reading."
As e-book sales have skyrocketed in the past several years, publishers have searched for ways to improve on the digital editions of their books. In 2010 enhanced e-books with video and audio were all the rage - Simon & Schuster, for instance, found some success with an edition of its best seller "Nixonland," with 27 videos scattered throughout the text - but sales for many enhanced e-books were dismal, and the books were often expensive to produce.
Tara Weikum, an editorial director for HarperCollins Children's Books, said she believed "The Power of Six" could work with a soundtrack because the book is "cinematic in scope."
"We're learning that everything is up for grabs in terms of what people are going to respond to or be interested in, and the digital space is ever changing," she said. "If a reader falls in love with the book, they want more of it. And if we can give it to them in something like an e-book or the Booktrack edition, then it's pre-emptively anticipating what readers might be looking for."
Booktrack's founders say that their product is an improvement on the old book soundtracks, partly because it plays at the pace of the individual reader and can be paused or adjusted with a touch of the screen.
Reading the Booktrack edition of "The Power of Six" on an iPad is much like reading the standard e-book edition, with the addition of a small indicator scrolling down the page, line by line.
Much of the music - about nine hours' worth for the typical novel - is instrumental or ambient noise. But during livelier passages, a reader may hear the patter of footsteps, a booming gong, a crackling fire or the tick of a grandfather clock.