Soundtracks For Books: How One Author Is Using Booktrack For Her Novels

I live in central London and every time I travel on the Tube, I see people reading … with headphones plugged in. They are listening to music at the same time as reading. 

booktrackMy husband does it at home as well, usually to block out the sound of my interviews for the podcast. Ambient noise while reading blocks out the sounds that might distract you from the book.

But what about using sound to actually enhance a book?

We’re not talking about audiobooks where you are being read to, but a sound track that goes alongside your reading, one that adjusts to your reading pace.

Booktrack provides this kind of soundtrack for books.

Last year, I interviewed Paul Cameron, the CEO of Booktrack, and we talked about how Booktrack worked and what it offered readers. Click here to watch the interview.

booktrack vikingsI have a couple of sample chapters up at Booktrack and one fully-booktracked book, Day of the Vikings, so I am testing the waters because I find it fascinating.

But some authors are going all in and today, AD Starrling writes about her experience with Booktrack.

Why Booktrack is a such great platform by AD Starrling

I first came across Booktrack after reading a post on indie author Hugh Howey’s blog back in 2014.

As an author who writes with music and puts together individual playlists for my books which I make available to my fans on my website, the concept of reading an ebook while listening to a movie-style soundtrack was mind-blowing.

With the rise in ebook and audiobook sales over the last few years and more readers than ever before using their phones and tablets to buy and read fiction, the potential for Booktrack to be the next big thing in the reading world did not escape me. And it didn’t escape Hugh either.

Booktrack is not going to be for everyone.

Many readers enjoy their fiction in silence and will find the soundtrack distracting. But for the very large and growing generation of readers who love their mobile devices and are heavily into their music and films, Booktrack is something they are going to love. It will be an immersive experience unlike anything they’ve ever come across outside a movie theatre.

Soul-Meaning-I was very excited when Booktrack approached me to work with them in November 2014. They thought my supernatural action-thriller series Seventeen would make great booktracks and the initial chapters I posted on the platform got such great reviews, I decided to turn all my novels and short stories into booktracks.

Soul Meaning (A Seventeen Series Novel: Book One) is the first novel in the series and is now available as a booktrack here.

As part of the launch, we gave readers the chance to produce a short booktrack for an extract from the book, which was a lot of fun!

Here’s an interesting anecdote and food for thought for the skeptics out there.

I shared this trailer for the Soul Meaning booktrack with my newsletter subscribers and fans a few weeks ago and got some interesting feedback.

A lot of people who thought this would be an intrusive way of reading changed their minds after seeing what the platform can do and have been eagerly awaiting this release. So, don’t rule it out before you’ve had a read and a listen.

Production tips for using Booktrack

Making a booktrack is fun! The first time I went online and started working on the Soul Meaning booktrack, the experience was so thrilling it gave me chills.

Here are some extra production tips that have helped make my booktracks great examples of what you can achieve on the platform.

booktrack author user guideI would also advise that you watch the video tutorials available under the “Help” section and check out D.C. Grant’s book, The Booktrack Author User Guide.

And play with it. It’s the best way to learn.

1. General tips

Use headphones or earphones when “booktracking”. It makes the experience much better for the creator. Readers are also advised to read a booktrack with headphones or earphones.

When you first start using the platform, you can get carried away and find yourself being unproductive. To make it work for you, you need to develop a systematic approach to making a soundtrack. What follows is my system. Feel free to adopt it or modify it.

2. Finding a “track”

From here on, I am going to presume that you are at least familiar with the platform and know its basic elements.

After selecting a section of text, you can find a “track” of music, ambience, or effect in three ways. You can free type words in the search box, you can explore the different categories individually, or you can use a combination of both to fine-tune your search.

Figure 1

In the example above, I’ve chosen the adventure and mystery-thriller “genres”, the cinematic “style”, and the “determined-focused” emotion to find my music track. Note I can choose however many different elements of “genre”, “style”, or “emotion” I want to define a search, i.e. I am not limited to one “genre” per track search.

Note how I also added the word “desert” by typing it in the search box. There is only one “track” that fits this refined search; it’s called “Turbulent and Foreboding Music Track” and it’s 3 minutes and 10 seconds long.

The red arrow indicates what you will find under each music/ambience/effect track: these are “keywords” or “tags”. Over time, these will become familiar to you and will allow you to search for tracks faster. Had I typed “explorer” or “suspense” rather than “desert” in the search box, the very same music track would have come up.

The “+” button to the right of “Search” is where you can upload your own tracks to the Booktrack library. I have yet to do this and will likely never do but you may want to record a particular effect you can’t find and add it to the library to use exclusively in your booktrack.

3. Fine-tuning your track and the review panel

Figure 2

Above is a screenshot of the booktrack for King’s Crusade (A Seventeen Series Novel: Book Two).

When adding a new track or editing an existing one, a new window will appear at the top of the page. Note that you select sections of music, ambience, or effect to edit by clicking on the text. Depending on what tracks you have already added, your clicks will bring up “music”, “ambience”, and “effect” to edit in that order.

In the above example, I’ve selected my music track, which is called “C) Kaisik”. If I want to change this piece of music, all I have to do is click “Change Track”. I can also “Delete” it, select the text again, and add another music track. Whenever I make a change, I click “Save”.

Note the circle at the end of the music track. There will be a similar circle at the beginning of the track and these denote the start and end points of that particular track. You can lengthen or shorten this track by dragging the circle over the text. So if you want to extend this music over more text, just lengthen it instead of deleting it and adding it again. Similarly for ambience and effect.

When you first select a track from music, ambience, or effect, you will get a standard setting for “Volume”, “Fade in”, “Fade Out” and “Loop”.

This is where this stuff gets even more exciting.

Adjusting these functions can make a world of difference to your booktrack. And the only way to learn how to fine-tune this skill is to play with the platform. The first three are pretty self-explanatory. Note that the numbers in “Fade In” and “Fade Out” indicate seconds and I cannot emphasize how important it is to get the volume and fade in/out right. “Loop” is where you can repeat a short track over a long section of text over and over again. Say you’re doing a desert scene that takes up an entire chapter.

The ambience track you choose may be 1 or 5 minutes long. By looping it across the whole chapter, which could be 20 minutes long, it negates the need to select the section of text the ambience track will not cover and add it again. Looping works well for music and ambience but can be comical with some effects, so always listen to what you’ve done to make sure you’re happy with it.

At the bottom of the page are three important buttons. “View in Reader” allows you to read and listen to the booktrack in the actual reading app. “Reading Speed” is pretty self-explanatory; note that modifying the speed modifies the rate at which the sountrack is delivered, so the text and soundtrack will stay in sync no matter how slow or how fast you read. Next is the “Play” button.

This is the button I use to listen to and review the work I’ve done. It’s much faster than finding your text in “View in Reader”, especially when you’ve uploaded 100 000 words of your book. I suggest you use “View in Reader” for final pre-release checks or to check how your “Fade Out” is working.

4. Overlap, fade to zero, using music free sections

One thing that struck me when I first used the Booktrack platform was how jarring a chapter change could be in the actual reader app. Most creators end their music and ambience tracks, the longest and most powerful elements of the soundtrack, at the end of a chapter and begin anew with fresh music and ambience in the next chapter. As a reader, this ripped me out of the immersive experience and made me “stumble” in the story. I knew this was something I didn’t want in my own books and I was determined to find a way around it.

The answer is to overlap and use “Fade Out” to zero. In the example above, you will see that my music track starts in the prologue and extends into the next chapter. Similarly for ambience below in the same section of text.

Figure 3

You can totally avoid the jarring experience of a chapter change by overlapping music and ambience tracks across chapter transitions. The trick here is to choose how far into the next chapter you want the previous tracks to carry over (I suggest a sentence of two) and what length of “Fade Out” to use. Note that I used 10 seconds for the music and 4 seconds for the ambience. There are no hard and fast rules here, just experiment and see what it sounds like.

Also note that I use music and ambience even on the Chapter titles.

You can have text that is overlaid with two different music tracks or ambience tracks anywhere in the soundtrack, not just at chapter transitions. You can sometimes have more than two ambience tracks overlapping a section of text but be wary of creating too much “noise”. Using the correct length of “Fade Out” for the first music/ambience and the correct length of “Fade In” for the second piece of music/ambience is where the fine-tuning happens.

This used to take me a few minutes to do. It now takes me seconds.

If you don’t want to use overlap, then the other method to avoid too much of a jarring experience at chapter transitions is to select 0 seconds for the “Fade Out” of the final music and/or ambience tracks for that chapter. The best place to hear how this sounds is in “View in Reader”. If the person reading and listening to your booktrack stops at the end of that chapter, he won’t hear silence but ongoing music and/or ambience. If you use this method, be careful with how you “Fade In” music and/or ambience in the next chapter. Use a gradual, longer “Fade In” to gently get your reader into the next scene.

Figure 4

When Booktrack gave me the Soul Meaning booktrack to review, I noted that there were sections of text where there was no music. Although I found this initially a bit jarring, I have to admit that this can work well for specific scenes, especially if you’re building up to something big.

In the above scene in the red box, the text only has ambience and effects as the heroine finds herself running from the path of a bomb. We used a “heartbeat” effect to make this scene tense. And it worked rather well for this portion of the booktrack. Similarly, you can have sections of text that only feature music and effects, or music alone.

5. Booktrack in sections

It can be tempting to want to do all the music for a chapter, followed by the ambience and effects. My advice is to work in sections or scenes.

I normally do music, followed by ambience and effects. I once tried effects and ambience first, followed by music. I had to adjust the volume for my ambience and effects as music is normally such a predominant element of the soundtrack.

Thoughts on Marketing and the future of Booktrack

I have had many discussions with the Booktrack team about how to promote these unique products and I have to admit that advertising for booktracks is still in its infancy.

The market for booktracks is out there. The challenge right now is reaching it.

One idea would be to approach existing platforms that review and promote audiobooks and ebooks to see if they would be interested in looking at booktracks. I suspect many would.

The other idea is to link and advertise booktracks on powerful retail platforms such as Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play. I’m particularly thinking of how you have the option to buy the ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audio book versions of the same book on Amazon. Although it would be amazing if you were also able to buy the booktrack version, I don’t know whether Booktrack is considering working with these companies right now.

The third idea might be some kind of bundling service where you could buy the ebook without the soundtrack and the booktrack together.

Things I have spoken to Booktrack about for future improvements of the platform:

1. Making a user-specific library folder.

Currently, I save tracks that I use a lot or that I’ve discovered and intend to use at some stage in specific Evernote files. I then refer to these notes when I’m making a soundtrack. I have suggested to Booktrack that they add a folder section to the creator’s dashboard, where you can list your most used music, ambience, and effects.

2. Improving text formatting.

Currently, the way the platform works means your text is very basic. You can “bold” and “italicize” but that’s pretty much it. All your lovely ebook formatting, font, and paragraph indents go right out of the window on Booktrack. You can indent all your paragraphs manually by using the space bar if you wish but I suspect you will soon decide you’d rather not do that. The way I understand it, for music, ambience, and effects to work properly on the platform and within the reader app, the text has to be in this simple format. I hope the company is working on changing this in the future.

3. Reviewing.

When reviewing a completed novel the length of one of my books (100k+ words), the platform really slows down. This has to do with the size of the file and I believe Booktrack are making changes to improve the platform’s speed for creators.

4. Sales and royalties.

Booktrack have set a minimum threshold of $50 in sales before they start paying out royalties on a quarterly basis. Each payment will also include a detailed sales report. I hope that Booktrack will be able to provide monthly and even daily sales and earnings reports in future.

5. Pre-order and preview functions.

Booktrack made embedded widgets available earlier this year and I was the first author in the world to feature one on her website. They are currently reviewing this to limit the embedded view to one chapter or 10% of the book (currently the embedded widget gives access to the entire book) and they are also working on a pre-order function.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post on Booktrack.

If you have any questions or comments, please do leave them below and join the conversation!

AD StarrlingA.D.Starrling is the award-winning author of action thriller series, Seventeen. Born in Mauritius, AD is a now a pediatrician as well as an author and lives in the UK.

Connect with AD on twitter @adstarrling

Digital, Mobile, Global, Indie? The Future Of Publishing With Thad McIlroy

Regular listeners will know that I am a (not so closet) futurist.

VR

Trying out the Gear VR at #Thrillerfest15

Today I get to indulge my passion with Future of Publishing author, publishing consultant and speaker, Thad McIlroy. Yes, we both get super excited about mobile, digital, global sales and the creative disruption of indies!

In the intro, I round up my time at ThrillerFest and talk about how Nook has shuttered all international stores except the UK, plus the release of iOS 8.4 iBooks which will have integration with iTunes, which bodes well for audiobooks.

And of course, I have to mention Amazon review pain and the Authors United protest. Plus, Deviance, the final book in the London Psychic trilogy, is now on pre-order at Amazon, Kobo, Nook and iBooks.

Thanks to Kobo who did a Buy 3 and get 30% off promotion for my J.F.Penn thrillers last week, resulting in getting up to #4 in Mystery & Thriller in Canada, just behind Girl on a Train. My sales at Kobo this month have been super duper :) I talk about tips on how you can potentially get noticed for merchandising.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets kobo writing lifethrough the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors.

Kobo’s financial support pays for the hosting and transcription, and if you enjoy the show, you can now support my time on Patreon. Thank you for your support!

Show notes for interview with Thad

thad mcilroyThad McIlroy is a journalist, author, speaker and publishing consultant and he writes about the future of publishing. He also has writing in his blood, as a descendant of Kenneth Grahame, who wrote The Wind in the Willows. Very cool!

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.

  • How mobile devices are changing the way people read and purchase books, and the increased reach of authors given the proliferation of mobile devices.
  • On the new relationship between social media, mobile devices and shopping habits, and the resulting importance of brand and capturing a reader’s attention almost instantly.
  • What World English rights mean to traditionally published authors vs. indie authors
  • mobile strategiesThe creative disruption that indie authors are creating and the benefits of not being bound by traditional rules, especially if we are unaware the rules existed at one time.
  • Whether there’s a plateau in the indie book market and thriving without needing to destroy the traditional.
  • The role of print books in the future, as well as the current state of the appearance of ebooks and the difficulty in making them beautiful.
  • The rise of Apple in the ebook market and the differences in merchandising approaches on Kobo and Apple vs. Amazon.
  • Recent changes at Scribd and the popularity of the subscription model.
  • On audiobooks, Google Auto and Apple CarPlay and why audio matters for those authors with reasonable sales.
  • On the importance of metadata, including the power of a book’s description because it is a metadata field.

You can find Thad at TheFutureOfPublishing.com and his book on Mobile Strategies for Digital Publishing here on Amazon.

Continue Reading

Gaming, Writing And Collaboration With Nathan Meunier

Gamers love their games, many are addicted and are passionate about the experiences they are immersed in.

I think we’d all love to see more of that addictive behavior around books! In today’s show, I interview Nathan Meunier, an author and game journalist, about what we can all learn from gaming.

In the intro I mention The Author’s Guild fair contract initiative, the new Kindle for Kids Fire HD device and the interview about KDP Kids ebook creator, Thrillerfest in NYC in July. Plus, talking about Mark Dawson’s Facebook Advertising for Authors course.

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

nathan meunierNathan Meunier is an award-winning journalist and freelance writer who covers video games, technology, and geek culture. He’s also an indie game developer and has non-fiction books on game journalism as well as indie publishing.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video or read the notes and links below.

  • Nathan had always been interested in entertainment writing and also writing books, and made the shift from journalism to freelance writing.
  • The connections and also the differences between gaming and writing. And the opportunities that might be available in the near future to merge the worlds of books and games. And how he seeks out games for experiences he can’t get with movies or books.
  • The different types of games available that have narrative structure. And the opportunities available in gaming to make choices about different paths – or branches – in the story.
  • The way that gaming companies work with writers, including approaching gaming companies as a freelance writer or being part of a creative team on a contractual basis. For gaming companies, writers can focus on character development, story, narrative, branching paths and world building.
  • The parallels between large and small or indie companies that produces games, and the traditional and indie publishing worlds. Larger gaming companies often have a ‘self-publishing’ option where they will allow developers to produce a game on their platform. Nathan compares this to Amazon KDP where they provide the platform, the writer provides the content and Amazon takes a cut from the sale.
  • On Apps, freemium pricing, layers of micro-transactions and how the different platforms dictate the price people are willing to pay for the app.
  • The broadening of the audience for gaming and how different types of games can connect with different types of people.
  • On Twine, a free, downloadable program that lets you create your own choose-your-own-adventure style books. Nathan is experimenting with using Twine to combine game development, self-publishing and interactive fiction.
  • On collaboration with creative partners. Choosing partners who are a good fit to work with. Providing critical feedback without causing problems. Creating unique projects and making sure the games and products produced are ones the market is hungry for.
  • The future of gaming, including Virtual Reality. Different gaming experiences that might become available when combined with VR. And the fun at the heart of gaming.
  • On taking a shorter approach to book publishing. Writing books in shorter lengths while still providing value to the reader. Books with shorter lengths allow Nathan to experiment more, pivot quickly and move in different directions.

You can find Nathan at www.NathanMeunier.com and on Twitter @NMeunier

Continue Reading

Virtual Reality For Writers, Publishing And Gaming With Rob Morgan

I’ve been excited about virtual reality for a while now and today I finally get to do a whole show on it! Rob Morgan explains what VR and augmented reality are, how the technology impacts writers and storytelling as well as discussing what the future might hold for gaming, education, retail and VR socializing.

** Sorry for the delay in posting this! I was cycling through Croatia last week and forgot to schedule!! **

In the intro I talk about finishing my draft of Deviance and also my next non-fiction book, How to make a living with your writing. It’s been a big word count month so I talk about how my writing routine has changed. I mention the brilliant Masterclass course with James Patterson – I have so many pages of notes from it. Plus, I talk about some exciting new audiobook developments.

99designs-logo-750x200pxThis podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna

Rob MorganRob Morgan is a game writer, narrative designer and voice director. Rob is currently developing stories and writing scripts for upcoming virtual reality titles across multiple genres.

You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher, watch the video or read the notes and links below.

  • How Rob moved into VR and gaming. Rob did literature at University and then moved to a digital agency. He did some work with a Sony augmented book and game – the Wonderbook, which led into a project with JK Rowling – Wonderbook: Book of Spells. Then Rob moved into working on virtual reality projects.
  • Defining augmented reality vs virtual reality. VR basically obscures your normal vision and replaces it with a helmet/pair of screens; replacing your normal vision with pixels. It has sound and haptics (touch) and smell are under development. Augmented reality is another layer on the existing world – superimposing onto your vision e.g. directions on top of the road that aren’t necessarily seen by other people. This is already here with how we use smartphone apps like maps, Google Glass and more. For authors, doing a map of your fictional characters around a neighbourhood or have monsters pop out as you walk around. There are all sorts of possibilities.
  • The aim of VR is getting to something like the Holodeck on Star Trek. They didn’t use it for just gaming, they resurrected stories and experienced more nuanced entertainment there. All types of content creators are excited about VR. They want to tell a compelling story that people want to be immersed in.
  • The technology is growing fast in the games industry, but is also about doing more social entertainment for families, as well as education, retail and social networks. The applications will be used in multiple industries. Examples in education (medics); doctor’s surgeries, example in retail from Westfield malls; social meetups in VR world High Fidelity.
  • On bookstores and VR applications for authors and publishers. Telepresence through VR for book launches would be fantastic. Retailing in a VR bookstore may not be the optimal use of the technology. [See my article here on what I think about VR for publishing] It’s not worth developing these VR retail spaces as publishers – it’s more interesting to think about VR experiences for people, ways to immerse readers in stories.

And remember, whatever the technology, storytellers and content creators will always be needed!

You can find Rob at GameStory.co.uk and on twitter @AboutThisLaterContinue Reading

Solving The Discoverability Problem: Virtual Reality And The Future Of Publishing

“if Oculus Rift achieves its potential, it will change more than just a game, but entire industries.”

From TechcrunchoculusriftCC, 16 March 2015

This is how I feel about virtual reality, Oculus Rift and all the other tech possibilities, about High Fidelity and the future of education, about how virtual reality will be the next shift in media – and will impact publishing in a similar way to the ebook revolution.

This article first appeared on The Future Book yesterday (16 March 2015.) And before everyone freaks out at the next new thing, I believe this will happen on a 2 – 5 year timeline, so it is not imminent! But something to get excited about (if you like this kind of thing!) I’ll keep you up to date on it over time.

Customers will always want books, in that they want entertainment, inspiration and education in some kind of packaged format, but how they shop is changing and how they experience the world is changing too.

Imagine walking along a street of bookstores, each one with an enticing window display of eye-catching new covers that appeal to readers of a certain genre. You walk inside one with the dark, brooding atmosphere of the crime/thriller lover and find yourself in a bookstore with shelves of books configured just for your tastes. You’re drawn to a cover, pick up the book and start to read. You turn the pages, feeling the quality paper, smelling that new book scent. You continue browsing and when you’re ready to purchase, you choose your format and the book is sent to you in the format you choose.

Then you take off your VR headset and carry on with your day.

The Virtual Reality Bookstore

With a VR bookstore, or street of bookstores, you could have:

  • Infinite stock with a display that changes when the same customer re-enters, meaning they are exposed to more product
  • Algorithms tailored to present people with new books, or books related to what they have read before and might like next
  • Avatar bookstore owners and assistants who can talk about their recommendations – the same personal touch you get in independent bookstores
  • A global reach with niche bookstores so any independent could set up a curated store and have customers entering from anywhere, solving the problem of foot traffic and high costs of running a physical bookstore
  • Stores tailored to nichesg. Apple style chrome and glass for tech geeks, candlelit rooms for Gothic, flower filled boudoirs for romance readers. And of course, less cliché environments too!
  • Libraries for reference based on the great libraries of the world where people can find digitalised versions of books that aren’t available for sale anymore. In my ARKANE novels, I have a portal that leads into the Bodleian Library where my characters consult ancient texts in a VR Radcliffe Camera
  • Virtual author appearances where people can come and hear authors speak in the niche bookstores – without the costs of actually getting the author there. Like a webinar but with the full immersion VR experience
  • The customer can browse the shelves, picking up books and reading them. They can feel the paper with haptic technology, and yes, they can even smell that new book smell. They can then click to buy in whatever format they like – print on demand shipped immediately (via the drones, of course!), ebook or audiobook format to their device. Or maybe the new VR format where you’re immersed in the story, particularly popular in the romance stores

I see a Harry Potter style Diagon Alley where as a bibliophile, I can go and roam, discovering new and exciting books. Since I buy books (digitally) almost every day, I’d probably be in there a lot!

The financial model

The costs will involve buying and developing a VR domain, and the algorithms that suggest virtual product need to be designed. Yes, there is a technical challenge here. But just imagine the upside:

  • Fewer physical stores – and those that there are can be run as ‘experiences’ and ‘destinations’ as per Apple/Google. The jobs will be in curation and management of the online stock as opposed to shipping, opening boxes, stocking shelves. But there will be many more curated digital stores that appeal to different types of readers. As an author writing in the thriller niche, I would definitely want to curate my own store, recommending books that I enjoy and earning affiliate income. A kind of Goodreads meets Penguin Random House’s My Independent Bookstore but in the virtual reality space where I can control the look and feel of my store. Many of us already do this kind of thing with lists of recommended books and affiliate links but this would be much cooler.
  • Lower costs and increased profits. Income from customers, either through some version of retail pricing decided with publishers or through an affiliate model. The opportunity for up-sell based on what the customer is interested in, as well as personalised recommendations. More books produced but using digital formats and print on demand instead of print runs meaning less wastage and pulping.
  • Global penetration into a market that is increasingly online. With both Google and Facebook invested in getting another billion people online, this won’t take long and virtual browsing customers can come from anywhere.
  • And just imagine the data you will be able to capture! All those juicy details about browsing habits and what people buy. You could test covers, using different versions for gender or age group or nationality. You could test price points, placement and even titles. The possibilities here are incredibly exciting for data geeks!

Virtual reality is (almost) here

You might think this sounds crazy but the technology is already here and the first wave will be mainstream in the next year. Forbes reports that the VR market is expected to grow to $407.51 million and reach more than 25 million users by 2018.

Yahoo reports that Facebook has Oculus Rift, Samsung has Gear VR, Microsoft has the HoloLens, and Apple and Google Project Cardboard also have developments in progress. Car companies are using VR for virtual test drives at car shows, and Sir Paul McCartney has launched a VR app for 360 degree concert footage plus immersive effects.

Gaming companies are taking it further, so players can use their hands in the game, a technological advancement where the body becomes the controller in VR space. And one of the biggest investments will be in education, taking MOOCs into the next level with virtual immersive learning.

But it goes further than tech because the virtual reality community has already been proven in SecondLife, an online world now 12 years old. I have a friend who makes a full-time living designing virtual clothing for avatars on SecondLife. She spends much of the year on cruises as the costs are incredibly low with digital product and she can work from anywhere. There are bookstores in SecondLife and there are authors who run events and retreats there too. The ecosystem is incredibly rich … but it’s not immersive. It’s not VR and never went mainstream because it was too early.

But the creator of SecondLife, Philip Rosedale, has now started High Fidelity, which is part funded by Google Ventures, and looks like it could be something like a SecondLife world in VR. They have just raised another 11m in funding to build deployable virtual worlds, to “quickly generate a virtual space to meet and interact with.” That sounds like it could turn into a virtual bookstore, or a virtual conference, an author group, a writer’s group and so much more.

Let’s look a few years into the future

We’re not competing against each other, we’re competing against gaming and on-demand film/TV as well as music. These industries are embracing VR and the immersive experience will take consumers even further from books. We need to embrace this technology and invest in where the online retail environment will be in five years time.

I’m super excited about the opportunity ahead and if you’re interested in VR for publishing and the future of books, I’d love to be part of cross-industry group to discuss this further. Let’s design the FutureBook!

Are you excited about virtual reality? Or are you still getting to grips with ebooks :) Please do leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Oculus rift headset by Ian Muttoo