AI has been all over the news recently, with services like ChatGPT disrupting entire industries. It seems that the world always reacts too late to revolutionary technology, even though we’ve known about AI and AI-generated content for ages now. Some of those industries include audiobooks and narration. Although the news went largely under the radar, Apple AI audiobooks was a service that launched in early January. Many may not realize it yet, but the service (and how believable the narration sounds) could cause major disruption and extend ripples to various other media-related industries. Find out more about Apple AI audiobooks and what they might mean for narrators, consumers, and the larger market.
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What Is Apple AI Audiobooks?
Apple AI audiobooks is a new service that launched in early January that allows authors on Apple Books to use a digital narration service to create audiobooks. This gives indie authors a chance to extend their customer base since a lot more individuals are willing to listen to audiobooks rather than actually read the content themselves. Currently, Apple’s partnered with two different firms to provide this AI service: Draft2Digital and Ingram CoreSource. All authors who wish to publish AI audiobooks must be partnered with either of these two firms.
Apple uses advanced speech synthesis technology and hours and hours of machine learning to generate a realistic narration for all audiobooks. If you thought Siri sounded unrealistic, you would be blown away by how real these voices sound. You can take a listen for yourself here. The technology’s been there for a while, but we’ve never really seen it implemented in a longer format like audiobooks before.
There are currently four different voices authors can choose from. Madison is a fiction/romance soprano, Jackson is a fiction/romance baritone, Helena is a non-fiction soprano, and Mitchell is a non-fiction baritone. Searching for the term “AI narration” in the Apple Books search bar reveals all the titles that have been narrated by AI.
The Rise of Audiobooks
Anyone that’s been on the internet for the past few years will have seen advertisements for audiobook services like Audible. However, Apple Books is a lesser-known service that has a similar premise to that of Audible. According to The Guardian, audiobook sales increased by 25% in 2022 and experts believe the industry may be worth more than $35bn by 2030. If you’re a fan of reading books but don’t necessarily have the time or energy to commit to it, audiobooks are a great way of biding time wherever you are.
By far, the biggest audiobook platform is Audible, and it’s difficult for competitors to penetrate this particular market due to the monopoly the company has. The thing about launching a service like Audible or Apple Books is that there isn’t much value a company can add to its platform. Customers are going to be choosing the platform based on the vastness of the library and the quality of the narration. That’s perhaps why Apple Books has been struggling to succeed and why the company decided to launch the Apple AI audiobooks. Could the new AI narration lead to a surge of new content for Apple Books to capitalize on?
Apple AI Audiobooks: Death of Voice Acting?
As with any media-based industry, the most important thing is to create content. An abundance of content means that consumers have a higher chance of interacting with a particular service or brand. With audiobooks, there is hypothetically an endless stream of content a company can produce. As long as authors publish ebooks on the platform, the company can hire voice actors to narrate them. The thing about hiring narrators is that it requires spending money on the actors’ talents. With AI, a company only needs to make an initial investment in developing the technology, then enjoy endless content.
This could be worrisome for voice actors. Before, many thought that AI narration would sound awkward, robotic, and distinguishable. The thing about Apple’s AI narration is that it sounds extremely human and fluent. Just as ChatGPT and AI art generation services produce extremely human content, so does Apple’s AI voice technology.
Could AI narration infiltrate the voice acting industry? Would we see AI voice cartoons or other characters? Could an AI voice movie trailers? These things seem wholly possible now more than ever. The jump from a Siri-sounding AI voice to Madison, Jackson, Helena, and Mitchell is big.