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Apple audiobook narration is AI’s latest victim, but may help authors

As the controversy over AI art rumbles on, Apple has announced the first AI-generated audiobooks are now available via its digital bookstore.

The company has made the technology available to authors, who may not have the means to convert their written work to the audiobook format.

The Apple Books digital narration feature has been quietly launched on the Apple Books for Authors webpage, which lauds the ability for independent authors to easily convert their books to audio without great cost or complexity.

“Apple Books digital narration brings together advanced speech synthesis technology with important work by teams of linguists, quality control specialists, and audio engineers to produce high-quality audiobooks from an ebook file,” the company says.

Apple’s new feature allows users to select from a range of AI-generated voices, which are optimised for specific genres. Right now, it’s available for the romance fiction genres, but more will follow in due course. Users will be able to identify these titles by a ‘Narrated by Apple Books’ label within the storefront.

Apple Books AI narration

For authors it may mean more sales from those who prefer to listen rather than read. However, the scheme is sure to meet opposition from voice actors who may worry for the future of their profession, and from audiobook patrons who prefer a natural human voice.

Apple says the technology will work alongside narrators, while ensuring audiobooks become more accessible to all. Considering only a fraction of books are ever converted to the audio format, they’re may be room for both. However, the creeping influence of cheap AI tech, at the expense of human artists, is a natural cause for concern.

“Digitally narrated titles are a valuable complement to professionally narrated audiobooks,” the company adds, perhaps anticipating the blowback, “and will help bring audio to as many books and as many people as possible. Apple Books remains committed to celebrating and showcasing the magic of human narration and will continue to grow the human-narrated audiobook catalog.”

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