Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book to the Future

Y'all might remember the grand entrance of the Vook in 2009. If not, in short: it's a form of enhanced e-book with movies and other media built into it. Video + book = Vook. Simple, cool, innovative, no?

Unfortunately, many readers found the videos and additional media distracting, particularly for works of fiction. (I could have told you that countless nonconsecutive video clips do not help a reader immerse him/herself in a fictional world.) Vook has since moved toward more nonfiction titles, however, and received a better response.

How a Vook differs from the Internet, I have no idea.

However! If you thought the Vook was the pinnacle of book/media mash-ups, you thought wrong. Enter Booktrack, a company that makes soundtracks for books.

Yes, soundtracks for books. Now while you're reading about a forest, you can hear THE SOUNDS OF A FOREST. Like, I don't know, birds and whatnot. When Bro McLadiesMan begins playing a mega sweet power ballad for his lady fair, you can listen along. When you get to a super intense part, you get to listen to super intense movie trailer-style music. &c, &c. (There are previews on the Booktrack website if you're interested.)

The Booktrack speed can be adjusted to your reading speed, as well, so the synchronization between sound effects and text should be reasonably good.

Be that as it may, I think I'll find Booktrack books similar to Vooks: over-hyped and distracting. I'm all for innovation in the field and I think it's necessary to the future success of print media, but I'm not sure rocking the audio equivalent of a movie trailer in the background is the best way to achieve this.

However! I'm curious, as always, to hear what you think. So, mes auteurs: yea or nay on the Booktrack experience?


  1. Though I haven't experienced either of these creatures, I'm inclined to vote nay. Immersing myself in a book is all about letting my imagination take over completely to create the world of the novel. That's part of the joy of reading: it's different for everyone because everyone visualizes the story differently. Adding a soundtrack seems invasive.

  2. If I want forest sounds while I'm reading a book set in the forest, I'll go to the park. I don't need to pay extra to hear birds tweeting.

    On a less snarky note, my general impression is the same as yours, Eric. While some things (birds tweeting, for instance) might enhance the book, I think an actual soundtrack would distract me from the story.

    Books and films are not the same media, and they should not be treated and produced in the same manner. We process words differently than we process visual cues. Films need soundtracks because they don't have the words to tell us the murderer is hiding in the coat closet. Books don't need the extra help.

  3. Part of the appeal of reading books at all is to play out scenes and sounds in the mind. Even with very muted/relaxing music playing, a soundtrack to a book is too much. I can imagine that, at some points, it might enhance the book experience a little, but at best it's distracting.

  4. Nay.

    Part of the joy of reading (for me) is the peace of sitting in silence and letting the story play in my internal/mental video/stereo system.

  5. I personally agree with everyone here, however, I know a lot of readers who say they can't read in total silence (and writers who must have background noise when writing). I think if I were one of these readers, I'd rather have music appropriate to the story than just whatever's on the shuffle. I've created playlists for my books, but I don't expect anyone to listen WHILE reading. But who knows? Could turn out to be something. Or not.

  6. Well, I tend to imagine the sounds for myself very well, but I would be intrigued to try it--until you mentioned the part about adjusting it to match your reading speed. I would just mess around with that, reading the epic parts uber-slowly so I could laugh at the distorted guitar riffs. Then I'd want to shut it off so I could get some real reading done.

  7. The reading speed thing concerns me. My reading speed varies wildly depending on how distracted I am, how exciting/boring the prose is, and whether my daydreams are more interesting. I often re-read paragraphs because I realize I hadn't been paying attention to them.

    I'd be worried the music would suddenly get sinister and I'd realize that whoever I was reading about was about to die or something in the next paragraph.

  8. A good writer writes their own sound-track by the choice of words, of pace, of descriptive detail, etc.

    As a novelty idea for young children this may well take off. For serious readers all the issues raised in previous comments apply.

  9. This sounds like technology for the sake of technology. Somewhere there will be a man, possibly a woman, saying, look how clever I am. How do I know? I work with people in computing who are like that.

  10. I find this rather creepy. Just one more unnecessary device to keep us from using that marvelous instrument known as the human brain.

  11. I can't get immersed in a book and listen to music at the same time--I'd end up just tuning out the soundtrack anyway.

  12. While I think it would drive me to distraction, I keep thinking of kids and their picture books and middle school stories. I think the sound tracks would be great, if they were synched to the readers eye so the sound went with the right word.

  13. I had made a proposal a couple years ago that an ebook could include linkouts to mp3s for purchase that would then build a soundtrack for the text. It would offer a secondary revenue stream and appear as "more" for the book than just the book.

    Video would be distracting to me, but the right music just enhances the moment. The hardest thing to calculate is the amount of music versus the expected reading speed of the user. Too slow or too fast and the music would run askew.

  14. Wow, so many nay-sayers here :-)

    Okay, I admit that a continual soundtrack to a book would be off-putting for me, but I know plenty of people who read with their music on. Presumably, this would be an optional on/off thing?

    However, I reckon there's an awesome idea here waiting to be found. Imagine downloading your ebook, opening it at the book jacket, and a song starts playing. Perhaps then a snippet of a song can accompany the beginning of each chapter (or dare I say, scene), to set the mood.

    My current WIP could make excellent use of this, as it's set during WW2, so "Moonlight Serenade" by Glenn Miller playing as you gaze upon the title would "set the scene" perfectly.

    It will certainly never take off with paperback readers (obviously), but in this new digital age of reading... who knows. If it's done right (and that should be down solely to the author), it could be a good little gimmick.

    But hey, that's just my opinion.

  15. We're thrilled to see the back-and-forth about our product here on the blog. While we certainly think we're doing something interesting, we can appreciate those who express concerns, and we encourage you all to try out our product! Right now, there are six Booktrack editions live in the iTunes store, five of them for free. Just search "Booktrack" in the App store for detail. And if you ever have any questions or feedback for us, please feel free to send us an e-mail at info at booktrack dot com.

  16. That's totally insane. In a genius sort of way.

    I'd have to try it before I gave it a yey or nay, because it might go the way of normal music when I'm reading - that is sort of a focuser. Or it could be distracting due to non-synchronization (why am I hearing a forest when I'm in a bar?) or it could be *freaking fabulous* when it's spot on. Gotta say I'm kind of intrigued though.

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