Booktrack: New technolgy adds soundtrack to e-books, hopes to boost sales

A small tech company in San Francisco is trying to change the way people read by releasing books with their own soundtrack
A small tech company in San Francisco is tryi... 02:43

With a sweeping score and life-like sound effects, Booktracks could be soundtracks of big-budget movies. But they’re not from a film. It’s from a book.

The Booktracks are sound-effects and musical accompaniment for e-books and the latest attempt to modernize one of mankind's oldest forms of entertainment.

“The soundtrack is comprised of three types of sounds: background music, ambient noise, and sound effects,” said Booktrack vice president, Jason Hovey.

Hovey leads the Booktrack San Francisco office, where they've expanded from creating soundtracks for classics like Romeo and Juliet to letting both readers and authors create their own custom Booktrack from 30,000 different sounds and songs. The audio pairs with books on e-reader tablets or online. 

The key to this technology is a subtle but special cursor, which follows the reader's speed and fine-tunes the audio's pace.

Hovey told CBS News’ Brandon Scott that while this might not be the typical quiet reading experience, “it works really well with headphones.”

“Reading really hasn't changed since it started,” he said. “We bring music to something that needs a reinvention, which is reading.”

The world of books is changing.  A recent Pew Research Study found that almost a quarter of Americans aren't flipping pages anymore. Instead, they're reading electronically.

“Nobody knows what the book is gonna look like in 10 years. So I think a lot of people are throwing stuff against the wall to see what happens,” said Kevin Ryan. Ryan owns one of San Francisco’s oldest bookstores. Changing literary times means he now sells e-books, but for him, Booktracks go too far.

“How much farther away can you get from the quiet act of reading a book to yourself than having a soundtrack provided to you,” he said.

Still, Booktrack is growing and next month will launch a version for schools.