Friday, September 22, 2023

Apple’s new audiobook narration service uses AI voices

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Shreya Christina
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When you’re browsing Apple Books for your next audiobook, you may come across some titles marked as “Told by Apple Books.” That’s because the tech giant has released a catalog of titles that leverage its new AI-powered digital storytelling service. Company said the service uses the advanced speech synthesis technology it developed “to produce high-quality audiobooks from an ebook file.”

According to The protector, Apple approached independent publishers who may be interested in collaborating to launch the project in recent months. Authors were reportedly told that the company behind the technology would bear the cost of converting their books into audiobooks and earn royalties. Apple, as secretive as ever, apparently remained unnamed at that point in the process, requiring partners to sign nondisclosure agreements.

In its announcement, Apple touched on how hiring voice actors and producing audiobooks could cost writers and publishers thousands of dollars. For independent authors, especially those just starting out, it’s not always possible to miss out on so much money. But the thing is, the audiobook market has boomed in recent years – it earned it $1.6 billion in sales in 2021, and experts reportedly believe the market could be worth more than $35 billion by 2030. Not only would authors be missing out on potential revenue by not making audiobook versions of their titles, but also the chance to build their brand and following as the market continues to grow.

The tech giant said its digital storytelling technology will make audiobooks more accessible. There’s truth to that, and if the project proves successful, it could change the future of audiobooks. However, books that are narrated by a digital voice aren’t exactly new, and they tend to be difficult to listen to because of their robotic sound. David Caron, a co-producer at a major audiobook publisher in Canada, also raised an important point in his statement The protector: “The narrator brings a whole new range of art to making an audiobook… They create something that is different from the printed book, but adds value as an art form.”

Currently, Apple offers authors two digital voices to choose from: a soprano and a baritone. They sound pretty human based on the samples the company shared, but the sound clips were short and may not be a true representation of the quality of the entire audiobook. Apple currently only accepts books in romance and a limited number of other fiction genres. The books must already be available on Apple Books, must be in English, and must pass an editorial review. However, it is working on expanding the availability of AI narration and will soon offer it to authors of non-fiction and self-development. The company will also launch two more digital voices for those genres. For now, you can listen to audiobooks that use Apple’s AI by searching for “AI narration” in Apple Books.

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