Booktrack: Reading with your Ears

My first year living in New York City, I had a decent 25-30 minute subway commute to work. Having just graduated from college in which I read more than my fair share of textbooks, I was excited to take advantage of that precious half hour of free time I had every morning and every evening to read a book of my choice. I made my way through classic novels, non-fiction business psychology* books, and great works of fiction, all while listening to my iPod. My iPod was a tool to block out the loud conversations surrounding me, the girl whose own music was turned up loud enough for the entire subway car to hear, and the usual grumblings of fellow passengers. The ongoing music never added anything to my reading experience; if anything, it proved to be a distraction. And when you’re reading books like Frankenstein that require your full attention, a distracting musical soundtrack is not ideal. So how do I block out sundry subway noises but maintain focus on my reading?

The solution to my problem has arrived in the form of Booktrack. Booktrack is an iPhone & iPad compatible app that creates soundtracks for e-books that synchronize to a book’s plot/storyline. For instance, if you’re reading about an anxious character who hears a staircase creak, Booktrack could play suspenseful music and the sound of someone climbing a creaky staircase. Booktrack plays the soundtrack at an individual reader’s speed  and actually recognizes changes in the user’s reading speed (and auto-paces accordingly). Booktrack essentially transforms reading into a multi-sensory experience – the words are accompanied by a harmonizing soundtrack.

As Paul Cameron, the CEO and co-founder of Booktrack, explains it,  “Consider the reality of tens of millions of commuters around the world listening to a playlist that’s disconnected from what they’re reading – perhaps a sad song with an upbeat story. Instead, they can now instantly replicate a movie-like sound experience with Booktrack that fundamentally transforms their reading experience.”

This is a flawless example of technology improving a user’s experience. Booktrack is both practical (replaces distractions with a complementary experience) and actually enhances an activity (taking reading to the next level). Furthermore, it capitalizes on the opportunity for customization – something that we, as consumers in the digital age, have come to expect – by catering to the individual user. The level of engagement achieved through this application of technology is impressive and, to me as a consumer, wildly appealing.

I’m not too keen on plugging Apple products because, let’s face it, they’re doing just fine without my endorsement, but Booktrack is one iPad app that could win me over in the competitive world of e-book readers. Because now that I know that a soundtrack exists to Frankenstein**, frightening as it may be, I’d like to give that a listen.

Learn more about Booktrack: Watch videos and demos, read reviews, and learn more about the origins of Booktrack.


*A few friends and I spent a good ten minutes trying to come up with a succinct category name for the new style of writing that Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Outliers, The Tipping Point) and Stephen Levitt (Freakonomics) have popularized, but I’m starting to think that a defined category name does not yet exist…thoughts? Leave me a comment. I’m open to being wrong about this one.

**Booktrack soundtracks are currently only available for a limited selection of books (not including Frankenstein), but it sounds like more will be released in the coming year.

Laurel Marcus a design and technology enthusiast. In real life, she is a Senior Manager of Data Insights and Analytics at Tank Design in Cambridge, MA. In her spare time, Laurel likes to cook, play volleyball, bike, listen to This American Life, StartUp and How I Built This podcasts, and look for coffee shops that serve café con leche.


  1. This is awesome! Can’t wait until they have more books. Good find, Laurel!


    • Thanks Karen! When I hear that BookTrack is releasing new e-book soundtracks, I’ll let you know.

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