The idea may sound a little gimmicky, but co-founder and CEO Paul Cameron argued that the combination of music and ambient sound effects can make the reading experience much more immersive — it’s one thing to read that a character was standing on a noisy street, and another to hear the sounds of honking taxis.
The company’s last big launch was for Booktrack Studio, which allows anyone (not just professional publishers) to build e-book soundtracks. Booktrack says that in the five months since the launch, it has drawn 300,000 users to its site and mobile apps, with more than 3,600 Booktracks created in 30 different languages.
Cameron suggested that Booktrack is now pursuing “two distinct verticals,” publishing (including self-publishing) and education. With Booktrack Classroom, students will be able to read, create, and share soundtracked e-books for free.
When it comes to using the technology in the classroom, Cameron pointed to a University of Auckland study that looked at 248 middle and high school students and found that when they read text with a Booktrack soundtrack, they spent 30 percent more time reading and showed 17 percent higher comprehension compared to students who didn’t. (A previous study conducted at New York University found similar results among adults.)
Cameron also gave me a quick demo of the soundtrack-creation process. Users can select the text that they want to enhance, then add audio from a library of 20,000 tracks. (Half of those tracks are owned by Booktrack, while the other half is licensed, Cameron said.) The soundtrack is supposed to adjust to your reading speed.
The new funding was led by Sparkbox Ventures. Booktracks previously raised $2 million from Peter Thiel’s Valar Ventures, filmmaker Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post Productions, and others — the company said those previous investors also participated in the new round.