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5 Questions with Booktrack CEO Paul Cameron

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Booktrack is the innovative and growing company that engages students in reading by adding music and other audio to the reading experience – a booktrack. Their education unit, Booktrack Classroom, has shown impressive results and forged some great partnerships. Paul Cameron, the CEO of Booktrack, was kind enough to answer five questions for EdTech Chronicle. Here’s what we asked and what he had to say:

Adding music and sounds to books and textbooks – the booktrack – is an interesting idea from an education, engagement and retention prospective. Can you talk a bit about the evolution of that concept?

The concept of Booktrack was inspired by commuters and their content consumption habit of reading with their headphones on and books open. I realized there was a need to join these disconnected experiences for today’s hyper-connected, younger generations of readers. Our education arm, Booktrack Classroom, was derived to help forward-thinking teachers ignite a passion for reading and creative writing in their students by employing a modern approach. This technique offers an innovative reading experience that is moving and connects mediums in a first-of-its-kind way.

Are music selections driven by teachers who suggest or select? Or by musicians or arrangers? How do you pick what songs or music goes with what and where in a specific book a specific selection would go? And do students have an opportunity to learn about the music too?

In addition to a large library of book titles that students can read with completed soundtracks, we also provide an extensive library of over 26,000 free-to-use music and ambient audio tracks, from which teachers and students are able to select music and sound effects to apply to a story they are reading or writing themselves.

Students can pick songs and music based on what is happening in the story. For instance, if a passage of text is happy then the music will align to match this emotion. If there are dogs barking in the distance they can add the sound of a dog barking in the distance. This allows students to truly create a synchronized movie-style soundtrack, which allows readers to become more immersed in the story.

Students are given the opportunity to learn about music by being challenged to derive emotional meaning and responses from sounds that they can also apply to text. This process allows students to become more attuned to the subtleties of sound and the arrangement of different instruments in music.

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I know music has been shown to increase information retention and provide many other benefits. Have you done any field tests or case studies on how Booktrack Classroom is helping students? What’s the feedback been like for parents and teachers, too?

We have conducted two independent studies, one with New York University and one with The University of Auckland. Both have demonstrated a marked increase in comprehension and retention rates among Booktrack readers versus those reading standard eBooks. Specifically, an immersive reading experience has proven to increase comprehension by 17%, retention by 30%, and reading satisfaction by 35% in students.

Since we unveiled Booktrack Classroom in March 2014, the positive responses we’ve received from teachers, principals and administrators has been overwhelming, and it provides real validation of what we’ve undertaken. It also underscores the importance of how this tool helps teachers make reading and writing fun for students. For instance, according to Kate Baker, a teacher at Southern Regional High School, “Booktrack is the only tool that I’ve found that really helps students connect with author purpose and tone in writing. And if that wasn’t enough, students have fun searching for sounds to add to their essays — the cacophony of music, sound effects and student laughter was music to my ears.”

What’s the most successful addition of music and audio that Booktrack has done? And, it may be different, but when did you know the idea of adding audio to books and text books was going to be a success?

My personal favorite is Salman Rushdie’s short story “In the South.” The soundtrack evokes a feeling of being in the bustling streets of India as a Tsunami hits – a truly augmented reality reading experience. We knew the Booktrack concept resonated with people when our first two releases instantly became top 10 book apps in 20 countries within one week of launching.

I saw you just announced a collaboration with Microsoft and Booktrack is a Google for Education partner. So it looks like things are going well and you’re getting great results in the education arena. But what’s next? Where does Booktrack go from here? More titles? New tech? A new concept or something altogether different? 

Booktrack believes that storytelling will continue to evolve as the trend of customizing the reading experience based on individual users becomes increasingly prevalent. We are excited to continue to roll out big plans in order to bring tailored methods for integrating soundtracks within books.

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