I just discovered that there are choose-your-own-adventure interactive audiobooks! I’m not sure why I am just finding this out. I grew up in the eighties and nineties, and Choose Your Own Adventure books were as much a staple of my youth as big ratty bangs, too much blue eyeshadow, and oversize neon sweatshirts with shoulder pads.
You may be wondering why you should care about interactive audiobooks styled like the iconic children’s books. In truth, I accidentally stumbled upon this new (to me) trend in an email from Publishing Perspectives announcing a partnership between Earplay and Capstone. They plan to create a series of choose-your-own-adventure middle-grade interactive audiobooks. Capstone is an educational publisher, and a partnership like this is an exciting discovery if you have a couple of munchkins to entertain like I do. I am eager to share a beloved piece of my childhood with my kids, but really, deep down, these middle-grade titles won’t satisfy my desire to have a choose-your-own-adventure audio experience of my own. So I did a little research about interactive audiobooks, and I was not disappointed! There’s a wide range of available genres for interactive audiobooks, including family, drama, science fiction, fantasy, and horror.
With the increasing popularity of smart-home virtual assistants, Amazon Echo and Google Home are finding their way into nearly every home (my house has four). These devices, which already provide us with music, games, and entertainment, are now also the platforms that provide us with interactive audiobooks. But what if you refuse to purchase one of these corporate spies? I completely understand, but unfortunately, your selection becomes severely limited. You can download the Earplay app to your Android or Apple smartphone; Earplay is currently the only provider I could find that offers access outside of Amazon Echo and Google Home, but it does have family-friendly and adult-targeted content. Hopefully, we will have a wider selection of content providers as this trend catches on.
There are already some big media and entertainment names jumping into this new market, like Sony Pictures, Pottermore Publishing & Audible, Disney, the BBC, and NBCUniversal, the latter of which previously partnered with Earplay to produce an interactive audiobook prequel to Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and an interactive narrative based on Westworld. Some of these audiobooks are free, but others require in-app purchases or payment by chapter.
Over the last few years, Netflix has created several choose-your-own-adventure-inspired (or “interactive”) shows, the most recent of which is Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, a full-length movie aimed at an adult audience. The viewer uses a remote control to select the choices the character in question will make. However, with interactive audiobooks, you are the character you’re calling the shots for: you are the adventurer, the spy, the hero, who—assuming you make the right choices—will get to save the day.