The World of E-books: Booktracks

Miscellaneous

As the world of books and publishing evolves, perhaps it’s natural that people began to consider the fusion of books and music. For some time, writers have shared the soundtracks that accompanied the writing of their books or suggested complimentary music. And with e-books came them opportunity to integrate the two in a new way with book soundtracks.

Most developers of book soundtracks assume that since music is essential to movies, it will add value to books also and serve to improve the overall reading experience. Yet with films, we’re relying on what we see externally to create the world, not on our own imagination.

While such notions may have floated around for a time in various forms, the idea coalesced over the past year and led to the launch of a small company called Booktrack. They sought to create “synchronized soundtracks for e-books that automatically matches music, sound effects and ambient sound to your reading speed to create an immersive reading experience.” The concept and the technology is interesting, but the trouble lies in the difficulty of synchronizing with the individual imagination–an imagination that fuses its own sounds into a story.

The founder of Booktracks also suggested that booktracks “make it fun to read again.” Perhaps that’s why I’m not the idea audience for such an invention. I’ve always thought of reading as one of the best forms of entertainment, never something dull or boring. If a booktrack interests a non-reader and causes them to read more, it could have some value, but I think it’s less likely to engage long-time readers.

For my part, I enjoy books and music both, but I prefer them separate from one another. I’m not the sort of person who plays even the quietest music in the background when I read a novel. When I read a novel, I’m immersed in that world. The ebb and flow of words provides its own music, and other rhythms would break that fictive dream. Perhaps booktracks might pleasantly surprise me, but somehow I think not. I don’t want an intrusion into the world in my mind, however pleasant the music might be on its own.

What do you think of the idea? Have you ever tried an e-book with music? Would you?

Comments

  • Rebecca LuElla Miller
    June 28, 2012 - 1:44 pm · Reply

    I don’t think I’d like this and I’m actually one who does like music when I’m reading. I think the music helps me focus. But I don’t want someone else deciding what music I should listen to and certainly not what sound effects I should be hearing. I can’t imagine anything more distracting than having a door shutting sound coming prematurely because I paused to re-read a line. Yikes! The pressure! It’s like timed reading tests!! I’m having a waking nightmare just thinking of it! 😆

    Becky

    • Sarah Sawyer
      July 3, 2012 - 12:43 pm · Reply

      It’s interesting to hear that music in general helps you to focus when reading. For me, it’s usually a distraction. However, at certain points while writing a book, listening to instrumental music–mostly soundtracks–helps set the mood for me.

      Also I prefer music I choose rather than music that someone else thinks fits the scene. I think it would be difficult to do that in a way that appeals to all readers and harder still to have the sounds align properly. Yet evidently there’s enough of an audience that they’re still in business. Maybe it works better than we think. 🙂

  • sally apokedak
    June 28, 2012 - 1:58 pm · Reply

    I’d love to try this. I can see where it would enhance the reading. When I wrote the climax of my last novel I listened to one song over and over and it was such a powerful song. It fit my scene so perfectly. I’d love to let readers hear it as they read. I can’t see how I could ever afford it, of course.

    I do agree that reading doesn’t need to be made fun again. What a horrible person–to say such a thing. 🙂 But I still think that music might be a good thing with books.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      July 3, 2012 - 12:49 pm · Reply

      Sally, it’s interesting to get a different take on this. I know what you mean about certain songs fitting with certain scenes in a book–from a writer perspective. I don’t know if that would carry over as well to readers or not. As a reader, I would be interested to see the music that inspired the author of a book, more than listening to a booktrack.

      I suppose time will tell as people get more inventive with the music book combination!

  • Jenni Noordhoek
    June 28, 2012 - 2:25 pm · Reply

    I think that it’d work if it were like video game music – looping so you can take as much time as you need.

    I personally love listening to music while I read. I’ll turn on some new age solo piano or something like it for a good background. It’s very relevant while writing as well.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      July 3, 2012 - 12:50 pm · Reply

      Another music while reading fan…I didn’t know there were so many out there. 🙂

      I do agree it’s inspirational while writing, especially when you find a soundtrack or song that captures the mood of the scene.

      I think you’re right that a looping music track might work better, though even that could have its pitfalls. It will be interesting to see how this develops over time.

  • Janeen Ippolito
    July 1, 2012 - 11:51 am · Reply

    I’m on the fence about this. On the one hand, like other commentators here, I often listen to the same track on a loop if it helps write a certain scene. Drives my husband crazy (this is why headphones were invented).

    However, as a reader, I prefer absolute silence, so I can fully embrace the text. You describe it perfectly — the ebbs and flows that make up the fictional universe. And I would never want to presume to tell a reader what they should listen to when they enter the novel I wrote–I want it to became real to them, alive in their own imaginations.

    Besides, some of the songs I listen to while writing aren’t actually songs I particularly like–they’re just something that happens to inspire a particular scene or emotion.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      July 3, 2012 - 12:54 pm · Reply

      I’m with all of you in immersing myself in music while writing (in certain stages at least), the sort of music that reflects the emotions I want to capture. Music sparks creativity, so I wonder if that’s why some of us appreciate it while writing but not necessarily when reading.

      And I would never want to presume to tell a reader what they should listen to when they enter the novel I wrote–I want it to became real to them, alive in their own imaginations.

      This is why I like the idea of including as an “extra” the music that went into the creation of the book, either in the back of the book or on the author website. That way readers could look it up if they so desired, but otherwise could enjoy the reading experience itself.

  • Maria Tatham
    July 1, 2012 - 12:28 pm · Reply

    Sarah,
    Thank you for bringing this to our attention! I’d like to read such a book, just to see what it’s like. Sometimes I listen to music when I read, but mostly not. I don’t expect to be a great fan of this ‘genre’. However I am anticipating that, with the potential for creating an amazing artistic experience, some really imaginative and competent people out there will utterly amaze us.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      July 3, 2012 - 12:56 pm · Reply

      Maria, I may test this out one day myself, just for curiosity’s sake. I think it’s good to keep up with new things that are happening, because sometimes they fizzle out and fade, but other times they shape the future. So even if I never like it, I want to be aware of it. 🙂

      I agree that we will likely be amazed at the new ideas that come out over time, especially as books move to digital format. But I still prefer the physical books that I can hold and see on a shelf!

  • Emily Sawyer
    July 2, 2012 - 7:04 pm · Reply

    Like you, I absolutely love books and music, but I can’t really make myself like the idea of a booktrack. I’ve listened to music while reading before and enjoyed it, but I’ve also had the reverse experience, especially with more intense books. Sometimes, it’s just a bit too over-stimulating, pulling you away from the book’s potential.

    Depending on the book and my mood, I feel like I could enjoy a soundtrack for a book, but my thoughts were similar to Becky’s. Sound effects? And what if I read a little bit too slowly, or too fast? Like I said, I could find pleasure in some soft background music in the right kind of book, but a booktrack sounds like a bit much for me.

    • Sarah Sawyer
      July 3, 2012 - 1:01 pm · Reply

      Yes, I can imagine it depends on the book and the music they pair it with. A suspense novel with a tense soundtrack might be a little over the top, while a Jane Austen novel with soft music in the background might flow better.

      To me, the sound effects were the worst part of the concept. Music is one thing, but extra sounds simply seem like a constant distraction from the story.

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