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IT Services for Business – Apple Launches New Audiobook Catalogue Narrated by AI

By January 10, 2023January 10th, 2024No Comments

A new IT Services for Business has launched but very quietly through Apple.  They are now offering AI-powered audio narration for select titles on Apple Books. On their website for authors, the company says that this feature will help independent authors who might not be able to convert their titles to audiobooks because of “the cost and complexity of production.”  But what does this mean for humans?

Apple states the program is for independent authors only and currently they have to sign up with partner publishing companies — Draft2Digital or Ingram CoreSource — to get their book narrated by Apple’s AI voices.

“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. Apple Books has long been on the forefront of innovative speech technology and has now adapted it for long-form reading, working alongside publishers, authors, and narrators,” Apple said on its website.Apple - IT Services for Business

Apple is already accepting submissions under the romance and fiction genres — with support for only literary, historical, and women’s fiction at the moment — through the partners above. They are also starting AI-powered voice narration work for nonfiction and self-development genres. Right now, Apple offers four voices under soprano and baritone categories: Madison and Jackson (romance and fiction); Helena and Mitchell (self-development and non-fiction). According to Apple, these voices are trained in specific genres, but Apple didn’t specify what training data it is using to tune them.

A report from The Guardian noted that Apple wanted to release this feature last November. It was delayed because of industry-wide layoffs.

Most platforms — except Audible — allow books that are narrated by AI-generated voices. However, Apple’s entry into the market might attract a lot of attention to platforms such as Matrix-backed Murf that creators to make AI-powered audiobooks. At the moment, there’s no detail about how much Apple is charging publishers (or authors) for the whole process of converting a book into an audiobook.

Apple is already receiving pushback from regulators about App Store fees, and it might have to allow alternative app stores and third-party payment options that might have an impact on its revenue. 

Apple isn’t the only company who is looking into AI.  Amazon, whose Audible rules explicitly state that submitted audiobooks “must be narrated by a human.” Notably, its Kindles used to offer a text-to-speech feature, but this was discontinued a decade ago after copyright concerns were raised. At least one AI-narrated audiobook has appeared on Amazon’s service in the past, according to this report from Wired, but it was removed after being reported.

Spotify has also been investing in making audiobooks the third pillar of its streaming service beside podcasts and music. But Spotify’s audiobook ambitions have mainly made headlines because of its clashes with Apple’s rules around in-app payments, which Spotify claims are “choking competition” and are “anticompetitive.”

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Screenshot by Jon Porter / The Verge