I’ve been test driving Booktrack on my ipad – a free app marketed as a revolutionary new reading / listening experience.

How it works is that selected titles are downloaded to your chosen device complete with a built in synchronized soundtrack. You can set specially composed music to play at the same pace as your reading speed.

The website assures us that “Unlike listening to random music, this music is scored to accompany the text and make sense to the story, helping to further the imagination and the story telling. The sound does not take away from the reading experience; it enhances it”.

I sampled the whole of The Ugly Duckling and the preview copies of stories by Salman Rushdie and Edgar Allan Poe.

The ‘sound designers’ combine ambient effects and field recordings like quacks and gunfire for Hans Christian Anderson’s tale.  Initially it felt quite distracting but it is quite cleverly done and by no means as kitschy as it sounds.  The site is clean, well designed and easy to navigate.

 Booktrack is the brainchild of brothers Paul and Mark Cameron from New Zealand and it is still in its infancy. The website doesn’t give a straight answer in reply to the FAQ ‘How many titles do you currently have Booktracked?’ which is probably because their “entire catalogue” currently consists of  a measly  11 titles and two of these, The Power Of Six by Pittacus Lore and Treasure Island,  are not available to me in Italy!  Needless to say, more titles are promised.

Five are free short stories. Apart from The Ugly Duckling you can choose from Sherlock Holmes and The Speckled Band, Rudyard Kiplng’s Rikki Tikki Tavvi, Hansel & Gretel and Oscar Wilde’s The Selfish Giant.

Titles priced at €1.59 are Rushdie’s In The South, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan, A Christmas Carol  and Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death. Huck Finn is a cut price €0.79.

The app  is currently compatible with the iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone, as well as on Android- and Windows-based devices and will apparently soon be available for Macs and other digital products.

Personally, I find I absorb more when I read in silence so need some convincing that this will enhance my enjoyment as the creator’s suggest. I don’t think I’ll be using it much at home but can envisage trying it when reading on the train and plane when I want to cut out other audio distractions.

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