Booktrack: a misunderstood innovation

In the last few days there has been a lot of skepticism and debate about New Zealand born startup Booktrack - which I might add has a kick ass team.

The big hoo-haa around Booktrack is that they are not an innovation at all, and that their business adds no value to customers or the world. Now, from the outside viewpoint, this may be the case. However, perhaps there is something that we are missing.

I mean, if Derek Handley (co-founder, CEO of Hyperfactory which sold for NZ$70 million), Peter Thiel (co-founder of Paypal, and first external investor in Facebook) and Greg Sitters (owner of Sparkbox, a NZ investment company) have all bought in to this concept – what are we missing?

This is what I think we need to start thinking about:

  • Literacy rates are incredibly poor around the world and have been dropping in recent times.
  • Reading is no longer a large part of education. Reading is often called boring.
  • The world is saturated with information and literacy (and the ability and love of reading) is becoming increasingly important.

The problem in the world (which I posit most of you readers do not experience) is that reading is not regarded highly by the mainstream/masses.

And, yet, it is so important.

So perhaps Booktrack changes this dynamic?

If we notice how much TV and movies have grabbed the mainstream, we might notice that getting to the masses is not to force feed them books, but it is, in fact better to change “books” to suit the mainstream. By doing so we encourage more people to read, and they actually enjoy the experience. What if reading was entertainment?

My experience with Derek Handley and Peter Thiel, although limited, always highlights a higher social problem/solution. In this case, I think they believe that Booktrack could have an impact on literacy rates. What do you think?

So, let’s take a step back. A lot of us enjoy reading. A lot of us couldn’t stand the idea of a soundtrack disturbing our reading. A lot of us view books – whether novels or non-fiction – very differently to people who do not read as prolificly.

This might not be destined for you. But, it might just be destined for something a whole lot bigger, a whole lot more impacting on the world – higher literacy rates.

Just imagine if we converted the “we believe books are boring” folks to “OMG! Did you read that booktrack, it scared the be-jesus out of me” folks.


What do you think of Booktrack and its potential impact? Are the outcries in media valid?

Let’s discuss in the comments below

3 Comments to “Booktrack: a misunderstood innovation”

Personally I think the TC review was a bit OTT.

I also wonder what business TC has critiquing anything these days, given the controversy over the potential conflict of interest with their recently launched tech fund. Notwithstanding that, the Booktrack founders are no slugs and they have no doubt given a lot of thought to where it might go in the future. No doubt this is just the first iteration.

That the review article created such a polarising reaction is in itself interesting. It’s better than launching a product and getting no reaction.

September 6, 2011 Reply

I agree, the TC article smacks of intellectual snobbery. There is a big difference between 1. I am way too high brow to use this product and therefore it sucks” and 2. “There is no market for this product”. The article seems to conflate the two to their detriment. If they believe that the booktrack team are ploughing ahead with a moribund idea with no market validation whatsoever, I think they are mistaken. I give the team credit to have at least explored the market somewhat.
If the product creates value for an audience then it is a good proposition and who are we to turn up our middle class noses at it as a business idea?

September 6, 2011 Reply

They have some high profile investors on board, which is why people talk so much about Booktrack in the first place and there is no such thing as bad publicity, right….?

The publishing industry is ready for a few more shake-ups. Cameron showed me the app a few months ago and I listened to the music while reading a book (Sherlock Holmes) and the technology is actually amazing. Not tacky at all. It is one of those things that you simply have to try for yourself before you judge and a lot of people seem to judge is based on how they think it works and not on how it actually does work. In the end, it won’t be for everyone (or every book for that matter), but the reader can turn if on and off. I think it has legs.

September 7, 2011 Reply

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