In this ever-evolving world of AI drawing and chat and who knows what else, we find a new realm for computer-generated text-to-voice to apply its skills: audiobook narration. Leyland Cecco at The Guardian has more about how Apple is playing with fire in this experiment.
The popularity of the audiobook market has exploded in recent years, with technology companies scrambling to gain a foothold. Sales last year jumped 25%, bringing in more than $1.5bn. Industry insiders believe the global market could be worth more than $35bn by 2030.
Apple was due to launch the project in mid-November, but delayed it as layoffs at Meta and chaos surrounding Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter cast a dark cloud over the technology sector.
On the company’s Books app, searching for “AI narration” reveals the catalogue of works included in the scheme, which are described as being “narrated by digital voice based on a human narrator”.
In recent months, Apple approached independent publishers as potential partners, including some in the Canadian market, but not all agreed to participate.The Guardian
AI speech in general has come quite far from the early '90s days of computers. Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Siri are all computer-generated voices. They sound pretty good, but you know it's a computer. It's sounding better, but better enough to encompass listening to a multi-hours long book? There is where I have my doubts.
On the flip side, unless you are a big publisher or an author with a large budget, getting a book narrated is expensive, or a lose-lose proposition. I should know. I went through Audible's program back in 2015 and found that even with a royalty split between me and my narrator, a book has to sell LOTS of copies to ever recoup the costs the narrator spent in time to create the audio.
The audio narration may not be perfect if an AI / text-to-speech system handles it, but this may be a real tool writers can use when working to get their books in front of a different reader. There are a lot of narrators out there who also need work and my hope is they can find a way to get in on this AI craze so they aren't shut out of the loop.
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