Google has just filed for a new patent that would make eBooks come alive with sounds. The sounds would be triggered by events within the book, such as lapping waves, an ominous crescendo, or maybe an outdoor market. The new application would have the sounds stored on a server and would be pushed out to the eBook users are reading at the time.
The patent application outlines the main abstract. “Trigger point information is generated for an eBook to play sounds in an eBook. A request for trigger point information is received from a client. The eBook is analyzed to determine trigger point information for the eBook. The trigger point information includes location information identifying a location of a trigger point in the eBook. The trigger information also includes sound information indicating a sound to play at the trigger point. The determined trigger point information is transmitted to the client in response to the request for trigger point information. The client is configured to track a user’s reading location in the eBook and play the sound indicated by the sound information responsive to the user reading the eBook at the location of the trigger point.”
Text to Speech could actually benefit from this new patent. Many e-Reading apps from Kobo, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble don’t support it, and consumers who have vision problems may want the book to be read aloud. Instead of purchasing an audiobook at three to six times the cost of a normal eBook, the new functionality added to apps might allow people to take advantage of TTS.
Another sector this new technology may excel at is kids books. Most enhanced books right now have interactive elements and a narrated reading experience. The Guardian ran a focus group recently that found out, “Children reading enhanced ebooks also ‘recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story,’ said the researchers, speculating that the extra features may be distracting. interaction.” The fact that readers can experience very specific narratives or sound effects, without using “interactivity” as a crutch and core selling point, is very compelling.
Michael Kozlowski has been writing about audiobooks and e-readers for the past twelve years. His articles have been picked up by major and local news sources and websites such as the CBC, CNET, Engadget, Huffington Post and the New York Times. He Lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.