Apple Books has launched a new initiative to expand the number of audiobooks available on its platform.
The company is inviting independent writers and larger publishers to opt-in to have their written books converted into audio form using AI voice synthesis models. This is a voluntary process, and authors must own the rights to produce an audiobook version. Currently, the service is only available for books written in English.
Apple announced the scheme towards the end of last year, and the first AI-narrated books are now available for download in the Apple Books Store. In the Apple Books app, these audiobooks are labeled with a “Narrated by Apple Books” subtitle.
The transformation into an AI-narrated audiobook is not an automatic process and can take approximately a month to complete. Apple and its partners are manually reviewing the generated AI tracks for quality assurance before publishing, at least in the early stages.
Interestingly, Apple is targeting specific genres for this initial rollout. Each genre of book is accompanied by a particular AI voice. Fiction and romance books are narrated by “Madison” and “Jackson,” while non-fiction and self-development books are narrated by “Helena” and “Mitchell.”
Other genres of books, such as science fiction or thrillers, are not currently supported. You can hear samples of what these AI voices sound like on the Apple Books website. Although the audio is generated rather than recorded by a human, it is of very high fidelity and is even more convincing than the quality of the real-time machine learning synthesized voice used for Siri.
AI narration is particularly appealing proposition to small independent writers, who do not have the capital to pay for human talent and the associated recording process required for classical human book narration. If an Apple Books AI narrated version is created, authors are allowed to produce a human-narrated version later and can freely generate other audiobook versions with other distributors.
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