Apple Explores AI for Audiobook Narration


Apple have taken advantage of a lucrative and fast-growing audiobook market and have just released a catalogue of books narrated using AI technology. But what does this mean for the future of human narrators?

Will authors benefit from AI voice?

Apple says this feature will help independent authors who might not be able to convert their titles to audiobooks because of “the cost and complexity of production.” However, currently authors will have to sign up with partner publishing companies – Draft2Digital or Ingram CoreSource to get their book narrated using AI voices.

Which submissions will Apple AI voice currently accept?

Apple will currently accept romance and fiction submissions, and the firm is starting AI-powered voice narration work for non-fiction and self-development genres. There are four voices to choose from under soprano and baritone categories: Madison and Jackson (romance and fiction); Helena and Mitchell (self-development and non-fiction).

What are the current flaws in AI voice audiobooks?

 Apple AI-generation results are not instant. Once an author submits a request, Apple have said it will take “one to two months to process the book and conduct quality checks.” The firm have also revealed there will not be enough time for post-production checks. The title will be published as soon as the processing is complete and there is currently no indication regarding the shortcomings this might create or how the final version might sound.

How much will Apple charge for an AI voices conversion?

At present, Apple have provided no details on how much they will charge publishers (and authors) for the whole process. Given that Apple is currently experiencing pushback from regulators about App Store fees, the firm might have to enable app stores and third-party payment options which could have an impact on the firm’s revenue. The Guardian have reported that in recent months, Apple approached independent publishers as potential partners, but that not all of them agreed to participate. Authors were told that the company (unknown to them as Apple) would cover the costs of the production and writers would receive royalties from sales.

How could AI affect the future of audiobooks?

Publishers, authors and literary agents who spoke to the Guardian said the strategy, if successful, could have significant implications for the market, but many remained sceptical about its future success, citing that great writing should be paired with “talented narration… that’s worth investing in.”

Canadian literary agent Carly Watters said, “Companies see the audiobooks market and that there’s money to be made. They want to make content. But that’s all it is. It’s not what customers want to listen to. There’s so much value in the narration and the storytelling.”

Apple AI-voiced audiobooks – the view from Spike

While producing an audiobook with a human voice remains lengthy and can cost publishers a lot of money, the choice to adopt AI will be tempting as it promises to significantly cut costs for authors. However, will computer-generated voices be able to hold the attention of listeners? The battle for control of the audiobook market continues, with Amazon, Spotify, Google, and now Apple, all widely recognised as major players.