Read And Listen At The Same Time Could Catch On

You’ve bagged the sun lounger. You’ve got the book. And you’ve got the headphones in. The problem is, which music to play? The book’s a fast paced thriller, so listening to something mellow doesn’t feel right. But what if you hit a romantic chapter just when Steppenwolf’s ‘Born To Be Wild’ comes through your earpiece?

Luckily, a New Zealand company called Booktrack has taken that problem away for you. It has added soundtracks to over 15,000 novels which you can then download and play/read on your mobile  device.

Apparently, the music set to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is ‘18th-century country house-type music’ and definitely not the actual sound of bodices being ripped.

18th Century house music notwithstanding, the company believes that accompanying mood music to reading particularly helps engage a younger audience. It points to research conducted by the University of Auckland and New York University which shows an accompanying soundtrack increases reading comprehension by 17 per cent, and satisfaction and enjoyment by 35 per cent. (Well, that’s  what the students no doubt told the researchers).

And its growth rate bears that story out. The company last year completed a $5m round of investment bringing its total funding to $12m over six years. It now has 3 million active users, most of whom read or listen to books on phones while commuting – and not lying by the pool which we first envisaged.

The company’s top three books? a compendium of Sherlock Holmes stories, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and In the South, a short story by Salman Rushdie. We thought this was a pretty eclectic mix but recognise that an ebook with sound really could be an entirely new entertainment medium. Let’s not forget that when talkies were invented in the 1920s, the sound was regarded as an unnecessary complication.

And where will it go next? Reading the financial pages with tills gently ringing in the background, then moving onto the sports pages, complete with cheering or jeering, depending on which team you support?


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