Booktrack, the iPad app that matches soundtracks and sound effects to the ebook you’re reading is now here. Meaning you can read Sherlock Holmes complete with crackling fires, creaking doors, and continuous ‘foreboding’ muzak, all neatly synched to every turn of your virtual page.
“It’s difficult to imagine a movie with no soundtrack,” Paul Cameron, Booktrack’s CEO said. “Yet, until today, the technology did not exist to synchronize music and sound within an e-book”.
Apart from pointing out to Mr Cameron that he clearly hasn’t heard of the Dogme film movement, which regards soundtracks as superfluous distractions which most modern films could entirely do without, I’d reply - tongue firmly in cheek - that, ‘Sure, Paul, but why stop at Conan Doyle? What about a soundtrack to go with The Waste Land by T.S.Eliot? Maybe even spice it up with a bit of rap: 'My name is M.C.Eliot, my rhythms and rhymes are really hot.'
Because, I mean, in this modern day, why should we have to put up with those tedious subtleties and rhythms of Eliot’s carefully chosen words, when our whole reading/listening experience could be enhanced by having some engineer synch in a bunch of clanky out-takes from the BBC Radio Sound Effects Department instead?
And why put up with a merely brilliantly timed and cadenced cliffhanger at the end of a Stieg Larsson chapter, when its dramatic impact could be so much better emphasised by concluding each chapter with an Eastenders-style, ‘Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-der-derrrr’?
In fact, why not move beyond simple musical and sound effect enhancements? Hell, why should we trust plain old poets and authors to trigger any of our other senses at all, when technology could surely do a much better job?
Why rely on Nigel Slater to titiliate our tastebuds with descriptions of his recipes? Much better, surely, to have ‘lickable’ books, where the real taste comes straight through without all those unnecessarily cumbersome words? They could even be printed on rice paper. Mmm. Yum, yum. A tasty read indeed.
Equally, why have Patrick Suskind waste our time with those exhausting descriptive passages conjuring up a myriad of olfactory sensations in Perfume, when instead we could simply have ‘scratch ‘n’ sniff' patches attached to the bottom of the pages instead?
Actually, maybe the best thing of all would be not to bother with books at all. I mean, all that bothersome reading...it’s just such a drag, isn’t it?
Perhaps Mr Cameron could come up with a way to save us all that hassle completely? Like, I don’t know, how about just getting rid of all the words? Maybe just having pictures instead? Or even moving pictures and spoken words and music. You know, like one of those - watchoocallems? - movies, oh, yeah, that’s already been done.
I don’t know...maybe I’m missing the point...but why can’t a book just be that? I’m well up for movies, or narrative-based computer games, or for whatever else the future might bring...but sticking a soundtrack on a printed work isn’t the future...it’s just tacky...and distracting...and, frankly, something I think we can all do without.
I'll leave the last word to Mr Cameron, though. He sums up his true passion for books better than I ever could, as well as the true appeal to book retailers of the Booktrack app: "What they like about it is its ability to upsell—which you can’t really do with books at the moment. Other products you can—when Amazon sells shoes they can ask: ‘Would you like polish with that?’
Shoes? Books? He's right, of course: there's no bloody difference at all.
* Interesting to note also that Salman Rushdie was at Booktrack's launch party. I wonder what soundtrack they'd give his books. I know, maybe they could kill two birds with one stone, by soundtracking THE MOOR'S LAST SIGH and MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN with one great big, gassy yawn.
You can contact Emlyn Rees via his website http://www.emlynrees.com