Fad Or Future? Booktrack Adds Music, Sound Effects To E-Books; Peter Thiel Invests

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A new startup called Booktrack launched this morning (actually, the NYT launched it yesterday), in an effort to create a whole new genre of e-books.

Booktrack creates synchronized soundtracks for e-books that aim to “dramatically boost the reader’s imagination and engagement”.

The startup’s technology pairs music scores and sound effects with text, automatically paced to one’s reading speed. Booktracks can be downloaded for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch, and Android apps are on the way. Check out the Booktrack Bookshelf for available titles.

The company has teamed up with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Park Road Post, and Full Fathom Five, and its technology is already fully integrated in the new novel ‘The Power of Six’ by Pittacus Lore (James Frey), published by HarperCollins Children’s Books.

Booktrack and publishers will share profits with participating authors, composers, and musicians, the company said in a press release.

Booktrack is backed by former PayPal and early Facebook investor (and longtime board member) Peter Thiel as well as authors who will be collaborating with the company. Other initial investors in and advisors to Booktrack include Mark D’Arcy, Director of Global Creative Solutions at Facebook, and Derek Handley, CEO and cofounder of mobile marketing and media company The Hyperfactory.

The latter will also serve as Booktrack’s chairman.

Paul Cameron, Booktrack’s co-founder and CEO, in the press release compares e-books in their current form with ‘movies with no soundtrack’, but I’m not sure I agree with that statement – reading is an entirely different way of consuming content. I’m not sure a soundtrack attached to an e-book can do anything but distract from the reading experience, actually.

Of course, I’ve only briefly tested Booktrack’s technology with a single e-book, so I haven’t entirely made up my mind yet about its potential to disrupt the e-book genre.

Wired’s Charlie Sorrel, for one, thinks the idea stinks. He makes a good case, but that won’t (and shouldn’t) stop the company from trying, evidently.

In the coming weeks and months, Booktrack says it will publish a specially-curated compendium of short stories from some of the top authors in the world, starting in September with ‘In the South’ by Salman Rushdie. Booktrack will also release editions of classics, including titles such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Peter Pan, The Three Musketeers, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Romeo and Juliet and more.

I’m very much looking forward to reading Paul Carr‘s thoughts on this one.