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Paul Cameron: 'We had the original idea for Booktrack well before the Kindle was even live.'

Paul Cameron’s Booktrack e-books turn reading into an almost cinematic experience.

Technology has reinvented the world of books and reading. While many physical bookstores are disappearing, there’s a phenomenal demand for e-books. New Zealander Paul Cameron was quick to spot the reading revolution. His Booktrack business, which adds movie-style soundtracks to e-books, now has more than a million users worldwide.

It was way back in 2008, even before e-books seriously hit the market, that the Booktrack concept was born. As Cameron explains it, his brother Mark was sitting on a Hong Kong ferry, reading and listening to music on his iPod, and seeing other commuters doing the same. He noticed there were moments where the text and music would complement each other, deepening the impact of the words on the page.

“We had the original idea for Booktrack well before the Kindle was even live. We knew e-books were going to be adopted on a much bigger scale.” – Paul Cameron

He contacted Paul, who was running a team of developers in a software company, to share his idea of synchronising audio with a book’s text. Paul started prototyping and developing and, from that, Booktrack was born.

“We had the original idea for Booktrack well before the Kindle was even live,” says Cameron from Booktrack headquarters in San Francisco.

“We knew e-books were going to be adopted on a much bigger scale.”

Launched in August 2011, Booktrack adds another dimension to e-books, with music and sound effects that make reading more immersive. Readers can hear honking taxis, for example. Tapping a word synchronises the audio with that point in your reading.

Total Booktrack users now number 1.4 million, having doubled every quarter in the past year. The platform is used in 100 countries and in 30 languages, mainly English, French and Spanish.

The business employs 15 people across three countries, and while its platform development is still in New Zealand, sales and marketing have moved to the US. So far the company has raised US$7 million from investors including Valar Ventures (backed by Paypal founder Peter Thiel) and filmmaker Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post Productions.

Plans to launch Booktrack in Chinese are still underway.

“What’s happening at the moment in Asian markets in publishing and self-publishing is enormous,” says Cameron. “We have a lot of interest there.”

The company’s Hong Kong office focuses on publishing in India and China.

Booktrack has two main areas – education and general publishing – with titles for Apple and Android devices, as well as for computers.

The Booktrack Studio is also responding to a demand by users to self-publish their own e-books and create their own soundtracks. While the business began by charging a percentage for sales on just 50 e-book titles and 20,000 audio tracks, it will soon earn revenue from sales of e-books sold by content creators through its website.

Booktrack Classroom was only launched this year, but already 3000 schools and 4500 teachers globally use the platform.

“Every teacher brings 30 to 100 students with them, so there’s definitely some scale there and it’s already starting to accelerate,” Cameron notes.

Two university studies show Booktrack improves comprehension rates, especially in the young.

“It’s how they’re wired today, for a multi-stimulus environment,” says Cameron. “It makes total sense to them. I believe we’re definitely leading a new genre of entertainment.”

One piece of advice

In business, you need three main things and one attitude. You need a really clear vision and a business plan to inspire the team and investors, a great team and resources such as funds. Attitude goes through all of that and you should never give up. Eventually you’ll get there.

This article is from the December 2014 issue of INTHEBLACK 


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