n the film versions of Pride and Prejudice, says Julie Bosman at The New York Times, music has a tendency to swell at just the right moments to "heighten the tension and romance" of Jane Austen's plot. A New York-based start-up hopes to do the same with e-books. Booktrack, which launched this week, produces ebooks bolstered with synchronized soundtracks to "dramatically boost the reader's imagination and entertainment," according to its website. Users customize the program to their reading speed, and Booktrack keeps pace, adding ambient music and sound effects like creaking doors and footsteps at appropriate moments (See a preview by clicking on one of the titles here). Is this the future of reading?
Yes. Booktrack is phenomenal: This could "transform your reading experience forever," says Alyson Shontell at Business Insider. We found the soundtrack impressively timed; its sound effects went off within a few seconds of the appropriate line and the music followed "us with every page turn." While so many people listen to unrelated music on their iPods while reading, Booktracks combines sound and words to create a unique literary experience. "You have to try it to believe it."
"An awesome startup launched today that could change how you read books forever"
Actually, it's the last thing a reader needs: "The beauty of a book is that the whole world is as real as you imagine it to be," says Charlie Sorrel at Wired. The addition of ticking clocks, shutting drawers, and mood music is "incredibly jarring." Rather than enhancing the experience, these "tawdry effects" make the fictional world seem fake and knock you out of the book's reality just as "a bad visual effect can pull you right out of a movie."
"Bad ideas: Booktrack adds sound effects, music to books"
It's just the latest literary gimmick: The launch of Booktrack is reminiscent to that of Vook back in 2009, says Laura Hazard Owen at Paid Content. Vook offered "hybrid" e-books that incorporated video content into the text. Though heavily promoted by Simon & Schuster, Vook never took off, and readers "found the video cheesy and distracting." Some early responses indicate that Booktrack could suffer the same fate.
"What you haven't been waiting for: Soundtracks for e-books"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why I'm a pro-life liberal
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why we can't stop procrastinating, according to science
- How Ukraine can fend off the Russians, in 7 simple steps
- These stunning travel photos remind us that we're all just amateurs with iPhones
- The contentious policy at the heart of Cliven Bundy's armed standoff with the government
- How conservatives learned to hate Hollywood
Subscribe to the Week