September App of the Month: RecordPad

Some of the most powerful stories are those told vocally, which explains why audiobooks are such a popular medium today. For the small independent publisher, however, the products you need to record your own audiobooks can be prohibitively expensive. With RecordPad, a simple computer microphone allows you to record up to 2 hours of audio in a single file.

Voice-activated recording is also a feature in the RecordPad software. This allows you to start and stop recording with your voice; this is something that can work wonders when you have a special phrase used to end each installment of an audiobook. Most file formats are supported by RecordPad, so that’s a big plus and means you won’t need special converter programs to make your audiobook publishable. There’s also a feature that allows you to burn your vocal track directly to a CD rather than going through a CD burner program. All told, RecordPad has a number of a good features that makes it a solid program for the independent publishing house


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Tech Desk

From the Tech Desk

Is Booktrack's idea of putting soundtracks on novels a good one?

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett move closer together as the music swells. Soft strains of flutes and violins surround the scene as one of the most romantic moments in the whole of Pride & Prejudice is about to happen. You turn the page of the eBook, breath — wait a minute … turn the page? If you’re reading one of the releases from Booktrack, that’s precisely what you’d be doing at that point.

The company began with a simple idea: adding movie quality soundtracks to an eBook version of say Moby Dick, where while you read you hear ambient marine noises and appropriate music, becomes an immersive experience that more fully draws the reader into the world of the book. eBooks like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, The Three Musketeers and more classic and modern tales (such as the YA novel The Power of Six from HarperCollins) either have been or will be released by Booktrack with soundtracks designed to heighten what’s already on the page the same way good music heightens the visuals of a movie.

A good example of what music can do is the movie Halloween. I remember watching a scene from Carpenter’s film without the music attached to it. It was a simple night shot of a house with its second floor windows lit. Without music, the house looked like any old building on any night in America. Add the telltale discordant music however, and it became sinister and foreboding.

The theory behind Booktrack’s product offering is precisely the same. Add a soundtrack to a book like Pride & Prejudice and you heighten the sense of engagement for the reader. “The real world falls away,” states a promotional video on, or at least that’s the idea behind the product. The company commissioned a New York University study to back their product, and study author Assistant Professor Liel Leibovitz concluded that “Subjects using the Booktrack software performed categorically better on information retention tests, and attested to increased focus and greater clarity.”

The study was done on 41 subjects ages 22 to 34 so they’d be what Leibovitz and his team figured would be the most likely people to purchase the software. A study group of 41 might appear small, but Leibovitz tells me this was done so the researchers could spend an abundance of time with each subject. In some cases, each research subject was worked with for a full hour, which included a 10 minute rest period and more than enough time for full immersion in the software. Leibovitz said he theorized the older study subjects would be more resistant to the software, but this wasn’t true. Some older participants loved the software, and some of the younger ones hated it. Leibovitz emphasized the Booktrack software proved to be an aid in focus and in memory retention, saying that “The memory aspect improved in 100 percent of cases.”

There’s been loads of press focused on Booktrack in the past few weeks. Wired hates the idea, for example, with Gadget Lab blog writer Charlie Sorrell saying “It’s incredibly jarring. The beauty of a book is that the whole world is as real as you can imagine it to be. Adding tawdry effects doesn’t enhance the experience — it just makes the whole thing seem fake. You know how a bad visual effect can pull you right out of a movie? This is the same, only worse.”

Meanwhile CNET writer Amanda Kooser says “The music adds atmosphere and suspense. The sound effects are entertaining. Some people may find the added audio distracting, but for me, it flowed right along with the story.”

Both Sorrell and Kooser read one of the free Booktrack releases, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Speckled Band, so it’s safe to say their experiences were the same. One of Sorrell’s biggest pet peeves was the progress indicator that runs down the side of the screen line by line while you read. That’s how the Booktrack software intends to track your reading speed and adjust the soundtrack to match. This is one of the biggest selling points for the Booktrack product, honestly. Having sound paced right along with a book is a big deal, especially considering that when people read books and listen to music at the same time the two mediums are disconnected. Oh, and I neglected to mention that should you find music or ambient noise jarring there’s a way to turn it down or off in the settings menu of the software.

I’ve watched two of the preview videos on the website, one for The Power of Six and the other for the Sherlock Holmes story, and just from that little taste I can see the attraction to the Booktrack idea. My reading speed is slow enough to have kept pace with the indicator arrow, but I’m reasonably sure that people who read faster than me might have an issue with the indicator’s scroll speed. Sorrel makes an interesting point about this, saying that sometimes people glance back at an earlier sentence to re-read it. If you do that, then you have to stop the Booktrack indicator arrow and then move it back to the earlier line. At that point it becomes like skipping around in a record, and not really something to have happen.

One of the good things I can definitely say about the software is that the soundtrack is always on. There’s not really a point where it’s total silence and then all of a sudden the music pops up. That would be tremendously jarring to say the least, and would definitely make me rethink whether Booktrack is a good idea or not. Based on everything I’ve read about this software so far, and the two preview videos, I have to say that I’m cautiously optimistic about the Booktrack software. Outside of the obvious benefits Leibovitz discovered in memory retention, I’m not sure Booktrack is going to become the default standard any time soon.

For people who read while listening to music anyway, I can imagine this would be an amazing product to have. For those like myself, who are more apt to read in silence, I don’t really see this gaining much traction. It’s definitely going to be a case of to each his or her own more than anything. So, to answer my question posed in the title, is Booktrack’s idea of putting soundtracks on novels a good one? It depends on your preference. * * * * * Matthew Delman has ten years of experience editing and writing for newspapers. He has penned articles on travel, business, education, and health, which have appeared in publications such as The Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.), The Salem News (Salem, Mass.), and websites owned by Hello Metro. Matthew’s short fiction has been published in FISSURE Magazine (November 2010) and by Nevermet Press (April 2011).

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