Apple is offering audiobooks narrated by artificial intelligence, and plans to position the option as a way any book can be listened to.
Human readers typically dub audiobooks, but Apple is trying to digitize the process by creating audiobooks voiced by artificial intelligence (AI). People these days are always on the move, they may not have time to sit and read a book. As a result, audiobooks and podcasts have exploded in popularity in recent years. But for independent authors and small publishers, hiring a professional narrator to turn a book into an audiobook can be prohibitively expensive. But the intervention of artificial intelligence may herald the end of human narrators in the audiobook industry.
Apple quietly released a support article outlining the capabilities and potential of AI-based narration for audiobooks, as first reported by The Guardian. While Apple claims the move will benefit both authors and consumers, the company has approached the technology's release with a familiar level of secrecy as AI allows more books to be sold and enjoyed as audiobooks. According to the Guardian, Apple will cover the production costs of the AI audiobooks and pay the authors and publishers royalties on sales, as long as participating authors agree to keep the inner workings of the technology secret by signing non-disclosure agreements.
How AI Audiobooks Work & Sound To Listeners
benefits AI-based narration is simple: independent authors and small publishers cannot afford to produce audiobooks narrated by professional human readers. Using AI to narrate audiobooks reduces the cost and complexity of production and is within the reach of nearly any author and publisher.
However, there are currently some limitations. While the company's AI voices have different vocal ranges for a more natural voice, they're tailored to specific genres and speaking styles. Currently, Apple's offerings are limited to romance and fiction books. But are these advances enough to overcome the obstacles digital narratives have faced so far?
The extreme difficulty of creating a digital voice that replicates the unique speaking style and mannerisms of a human voice has played a role in the success of AI-based audiobook narration. People generally don't like to listen to digital speech for a long time because they are usually very unnatural. The sample sounds found on Apple's website are far from the digital sounds they were originally designed for, but they're still distinctly digital and not as appealing as a human voice.
Critics of Apple's latest plan say AI audiobook narration could tag The end of professional dubbing, especially in the audiobook industry. Eliminating the human narrative, they argue, would not only lead to unemployment, but the entire art form itself.
Digitally narrated books with artificial intelligence and "Narrated by Apple Books" in the byline can be found in the Apple Books store.
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