Audiobooks are fantastic.Not only do audiobooks make reading more accessible for those with dyslexia and vision impairments, but they are also a lifesaver for those who cannot hold a physical book due to chronic pain or other medical conditions.
Unfortunately, audiobooks make up only a small fraction of books (about 5% to 10%, according to ChatGPT estimates).Still, audiobook sales have grown steadily over the years.Our intuition tells us that AI audiobooks may lead to further growth in volume and sales of audiobooks.
Apple launches audiobooks narrated by AI
In January 2023, Apple in "Apple books for Authors" released the first AI-powered audiobooks (dubbed "digital narrations").
AI audiobooks are not to be confused with screen reading, which can be achieved by programming the Kindle and other e-readers.Apple's Digital Voice is designed to help independent authors and publishers make their books more accessible at a fraction of the cost of a human speaker.
Do audiobooks narrated by artificial intelligence sound weird?
You can preview samples provided by Apple in the company's announcement, and they sound very human.Possibly Apple picked the best samples to encourage authors to take advantage of its digital voice-over technology.In other words, while the sample doesn't have any obvious mispronunciation, that doesn't mean the books themselves won't have mispronunciation.
If you preview other AI-narrated audiobooks in the Apple Book Store, you'll occasionally hear mispronunciation or odd accents (we'll show you how to find digital narrated books later).Meanwhile, the digital voice isn't the worst narration you'll ever hear.Of course, AI reading aloud books is no match for great readers like Stephen Fry, January Lavoie, or Will Patton.
There are several different voices to choose from: two sopranos and three baritones.The most popular of these is Madison, whose voice is featured in countless books at the Apple Store.Her voice is soothing and melodious, reminiscent of gifted audiobook narrator Juliana Whelan.
Top narrator Bahni Turpin may have been the inspiration for Helena, one of the female voices voiced for non-fiction books (albeit a far cry from her real voice).Overall, we think we can get used to AI-narrated books, but there will certainly be a lot of audiences who won't like them.
How to Find Apple Books Read Aloud by AI
To find books spoken by the Apple Digital Voice, open the Books app on your Apple device, tap the search icon, then tap Audiobooks to narrow your search.last input Apple books.Any Digital Voice audiobook will say "Narrated by Apple Books" in the description.
Finding digital narrative books from the Apple Books Store on the web isn't really a convenient way, since anything you type into the search bar searches the entire Apple App Store, not just the audiobooks section.
There is no separate section for AI narrators on the web or in the Books app, but that may change in the future.
Are AI Audiobooks Cheaper?
The artificial intelligence read-aloud books available on the Apple Store are reasonably priced, with a maximum of $9.99 and a minimum of $1.99, most of which are around $4 to $5.
Audiobooks can be quite expensive, with popular titles read by a human speaker ranging from $9.99 to $19.99 or more.Some of you may remember the old days when audiobooks on CD cost $40 to $50 a pop.
Are AI audiobooks a good thing?
This question depends on who you ask.Many believe that AI-powered audiobooks will not only increase the number of audiobooks available on the market, but also make audiobooks available to authors who cannot afford human narration.
According to Scribe Media, the cost per hour to produce an audiobook is between $500 and $750.Only reputable authors and publishing companies can afford this fee.Although Apple doesn't explicitly state the cost of a digital narrator in its digital narrator getting started guide, we can surmise that it's much less expensive than a human narrator.
On the other hand, some argue that books narrated by AI will take away the opportunity for human readers to give audiobooks a voice.With many around the world already worried about how artificial intelligence will take away jobs from humans, the idea of digitizing audiobooks will only add fuel to the fire.
Regardless of your perspective, it looks like AI-created content is here to stay (and increase in volume) for the foreseeable future.
Audiobooks are a must
It's not hard to see that books narrated by AI could have some pretty big benefits.However, this comes at the cost of losing the nuanced emotional performance that only a good audiobook narrator can deliver.Those who prefer audiobooks may be disappointed by the quality of the digital narration, but they are looking for an audiobook that more than makes up for it in an audiobook format.
Audiobooks, whether narrated by humans or artificial intelligence, have played a vital role in making reading more accessible.
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