New Zealand-based startup Booktrack launched last year to provide e-book readers with something that they’ve been missing: soundtracks to go along with what they’re reading. To push that idea forward, the startup has raised $2 million in Series B funding from Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, Park Road Post Production, Weta Digital GM Tom Greally, Sparkbox Ventures, New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, EFU Investments Ltd., Stephen Tindall’s K One W One, and others.
The idea behind Booktrack is to make e-books more engaging by providing background music and sounds that go along with what you’re reading. According to founder Paul Cameron, it’s like providing the soundtrack to complement the text. Readers who try it out seem to like it — about 27 percent of customers who download a free sample purchase the book, and about 40 percent of those downloaded end up being read cover-to-cover.
Booktrack has been working with authors and publishers to create e-books that have soundtracks built in, creating a more immersive experience for readers (and listeners). Users can purchase and download these e-books through Booktrack’s web site and mobile applications today, but it’s looking to expand both the number of titles available and the distribution outlets that sell them.
So far, the startup has published soundtracks for books from the likes of James Frey and Salman Rushdie, and recently also released a soundtracked version of the Bible. But the key to its success will also depend on its ability to work with major publishing houses, which it’s already starting to do. It’s had books from Random House and HarperCollins, among others.
Distribution on other platforms and e-book stores will also be key to its growth. For that, it’ll need to work with distributors like Amazon to deliver to Kindles natively. Booktrack uses the ePub format for publishing, so Cameron believes that it shouldn’t be hard to get its files to convert and work on other platforms.
With the new funding, it’s also working to roll out a self-serve platform to enable more authors and publishers to build soundtracks for its books. Today, it relies on audio processing at Post Road Post Production in Wellington, New Zealand — the post-production house founded by Peter Jackson. But it wants to make it simple so that anyone can create their own e-book soundtrack using its tools to sell on its website and through its apps.