I don’t recall when I got the book “The Cave of Time” by Edward Packard, or how old I was, but this books sticks in my mind as one of my favorites as a kid. If you don’t know what a CYOA book is, it is a story that has multiple paths that you, as the reader and as the main character, get to choose as the story progresses. For The Cave of Time, the cover claimed that you could choose from 40 possible endings. I remember trying practically all of the scenarios to live out (or die in) all of the endings. I remember getting tossed off a woolly mammoth, getting killed by a huge bug creature, and getting eaten by the Loch Ness monster, a saber tooth tiger, and a tyrannosaurus rex. Of course there were happy endings also, but I can’t seem to remember those – must not have been as exciting.
The Cave of Time was the first of a series of 185 books published by Bantam Books from 1979 to 1998. It was written by Edward Packard who wrote over 50 of them for Bantam. R. A. Montgomery was the other main author (and actually founder of the series) writing about 40 of them for that publisher. They both also wrote a series for younger readers. R. A. Montgomery actually went on to write many other CYOA series for various other publishers. His most memorable one is most likely “The Abominable Snowman.” I remember having one of his called “Space and Beyond” also.
Initially the series had only mediocre sales until they decided to distribute 100,000 free books to libraries across the country. Almost overnight, the books became a hugely popular series. In the ensuing 20 years, the CYOA series sold over 250 million copies worldwide and was translated into 38 languages. In 2002, the last of the rights in the series reverted to founder R.A. Montgomery, who founded Chooseco a few years later, a small publisher focused exclusively on republishing the bestselling series.
A few years ago I was happy to be able to get a used copy of “The Cave of Time” off of Amazon.com that I read with my daughter. Now my 10 year old boy is getting into them. The cool thing is that some of them are being converted into eBooks. You can go to Amazon.com and get The Abominable Snowman, The Haunted House, Journey Under the Sea, Space and Beyond, and many others for Kindle for example. These have been updated with an interactive map that lets you know where you are in the book, links take you directly to the path you choose without flipping pages, and they give you an option to easily go back and try a different path.
Just a few years ago, Edward Packard helped create U-Ventures, an app for the iPhone or iPad. This is an interactive book application that is free with samples of three books. If you want to read one of the entire stories, each will cost $3.99. These updated stories incorporate sounds, lights, and special effects into the traditional CYOA format. The initial stories available are “Return to the Cave of Time,” plus “Through the Black Hole,” and “The Forbidden Castle.” My 10 year old boy and I are currently reading “Through the Black Hole.” While it works on the iPad, it is actually formatted for the iPhone.
I loved these stories so much I’m debating creating my own book with this concept, formatted especially for the eBook format. However, I’ve got many other projects to work on first, but I will be keeping this in the back of my mind!