Innovation That Matters

Wise Words with Paul Cameron

Publishing & Media

Paul Cameron is the co-founder of Booktrack, a new service matching synchronized music, sound effects and ambient sound to the text of e-books.

Paul Cameron is the co-founder of Booktrack, a service matching synchronized music, sound effects and ambient sound to the text of e-books. Paul is also a qualified aeronautical engineer, and a graduate from the Royal Canadian Air Force. After a decade flying as an officer with the Royal New Zealand Air Force, Paul founded the Marops Defense Projects Division in 2006, which was subsequently selected as one of the top 20 fastest growing companies in New Zealand. Paul went on to co-found Booktrack in 2010.

As the reader progresses through a Booktrack story, the soundtrack keeps pace, and the reader can pause or resume the soundtrack manually whenever needed. Separately controlled music, sound effects and ambient soundtracks, meanwhile, can be turned off, lowered or raised individually, depending on the reader’s personal preference.

1. Where did the idea for Booktrack come from?

The idea arose from my brother, Mark, who was commuting to Hong Kong by ferry every day. During the trip, Mark would read books and articles while listening to music on his iPod. On occasion, there would be serendipitous moments where the music and the text would align tonally and thematically, enhancing the experience of both. He then called me up to explore how we might be able to make this happen on a regular basis for all readers. I was running a team of developers at the time, so we started prototyping and developing, and from that, Booktrack was born.

2. How do you respond to backlash from reading purists?

We’re looking to create a new type of entertainment that exists alongside books and film to provide the best of both worlds. We’re not trying to replace books, and our entire team are passionate about reading and increasing literacy numbers. When sound was introduced to film, there was an outcry from major publications and influential people stating that it was an assault on the senses and that it was ruining the film experience. Today, we can barely imagine a movie without a soundtrack or sound. In a similar way, Booktrack is breaking new ground in creating a new and enhanced way to read a book. 

There are also real benefits to reading with Booktrack. According to a study conducted by professor Liel Leibovitz at New York University, reading with Booktrack increases reading comprehension and retention. Moreover, Booktrack has been popular. To date we have had hundreds of positive user reviews and more than 1,000 individuals have registered on our website who are fans and want to keep up on the company, who want to have their books Booktracked, or who want to compose music for us. Beyond that, our products have been very popular and have breached the top of the lists for app downloads in the iTunes store. Finally, for those who haven’t tried Booktrack, I would say that it is a bit like riding a bike—initially, you’re worried about balancing, tuning, and pedaling. But after a while, that all fades away. Booktrack is the same way—once you get into it, it truly is an immersive experience. The key is you must TRY IT to understand it!

3. Can you describe a typical working day?

A typical day can start in either New Zealand or New York with either a nice quiet drive to work or a noisy subway downtown (reading a Booktrack, of course!). From there, I spend the rest of my day working with everyone from our Academy Award-winning audio teams to our own software team based in New Zealand, to our sales and marketing headquarters in New York. Because Booktrack is a truly global business, emails and phone calls come in at all times of the day and night to our trans-continental teams, so there is never a dull moment.

4. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on Booktrack?

I spend most of my spare time with my family. I have two little girls who keep me well entertained and on my toes. And I’m always interested in reading the latest Booktrack to shut out the outside world and get immersed in a good read.

5. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur?

Tenacity—never give up.

6. What drove you crazy when building your business?

The amount of time that great software development takes. When you’re sitting on this great idea, your designs are complete, and you need to take it to market, it can feel like the development takes forever.

7. What motivates you to keep going?

Very few people get the opportunity to bring a new innovation to market that is the equivalent of adding sound to film, and the product is just so exciting that we want to make sure we get it into as many hands as possible so that people can experience it. It’s very rare that we get a negative reaction once somebody has tried it—most people express that it’s far better than they ever imagined.

8. If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

We would have scaled our software development team earlier to get our product to market more quickly.

9. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there?

We would like to see all e-readers and devices be Booktrack-enabled so that anyone can experience Booktrack on whatever platform or e-book store they are reading from. In addition, we are working to create a whole community of people who can develop Booktracks that are then distributed to the world through our platform. We have assembled the right team of people who are smart and understand our vision, and in order to achieve our goals, we will continue working with them to advance our product and business opportunities

10. If you weren’t working on Booktrack, what would you be doing?

I’d be a stay-at-home dad raising my two beautiful daughters.

11. Tell Springwise a secret…

All of Booktracks R&D and software development is done in Auckland, NZ, and Academy Award winning sound Studio Park Road Post completes all of our audio.

12. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Don’t give up and always believe in your product and idea. Don’t listen to the detractors.

You can read more about Booktrack in our article here, or visit the Booktrack website here.