Regular readers of this blog will know how important music is to me when writing. I have playlists and albums that I reach for depending on the type of story I am writing. Music, usually but not always instrumental, is a necessary part of my writing process. Strangely, when reading I require complete silence to enable me to slip into the world of the book. Which is why the recent promotional activities of a new service/product/app Booktrack caught my eye.

From the Booktrack website:

Booktrack represents a new chapter in the evolution of storytelling, and an industry “first” in publishing, by creating synchronized soundtracks for e-books that dramatically boost the reader’s imagination and engagement. The company’s proprietary technology combines music, sound effects and ambient sound, automatically paced to an individual’s reading speed. Funded by investors including, Peter Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of PayPal, and member of Facebook’s board of directors — and in partnership with the largest publishing houses, best-selling authors, and award-winning composers and musicians — Booktrack is already well on its way to creating a new genre of entertainment. Download Booktracks in the Apple App store for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch.

The following promo videos show Booktrack in action

What is Booktrack?

How does Booktrack work?

Sherlock Holmes – The Adventure of the Speckled Band Booktrack Trailer

While I am not entirely convinced, I am intrigued, particularly by the Sherlock Holmes example, and have a feeling this type of addition to text may well work best with particular genres. Period thrillers like the adventures of Holmes and Watson might profit from the addition of period detail. I can’t help thinking the whole affair might be distracting.

That said, I was very impressed by Nick Cave’s The Death of Bunny Munro app, released back in 2009 but that included the audiobook reading to listen to, which, I believe, Booktrack doesn’t. The Bunny Munro app, the audiobook reading, effects and music combined to create a really immersive experience. The music and soundtrack were crafted by Cave though (along with longtime collaborator Warren Ellis) so the fitness for purpose of the soundtrack should really come as no surprise. The Death of Bunny Munro website features a stream of the Chapters 1-4 of the enhanced audiobook for those of you intrigued enough to click through.

In the recent article about the service in the Guardian, I was struck by how many people in the comments said they selected music to create a particular atmosphere when reading. Any readers of this blog who when reading (or, like me, writing) need music to complete the experience? Is there a market out there for apps like Booktrack? I’m not sure. Though I am sure that there really was little need for this rather exploitative plugging of the product featuring such a gratuitous cleavage shot and some terrible acting by James Frey:

My experience with the Bunny Munro app certainly didn’t have that effect. Considering the nature of Cave’s main character I’m very glad it didn’t.