Death of the Narrator Apple Announces a New Line of AI-voiced Audiobooks
In a quiet move that could mark the end of human narrators, Apple has launched a catalog of books narrated entirely by artificial intelligence. This strategy is an attempt to disrupt the lucrative, fast-growing audiobook market. However, it also promises to intensify scrutiny of allegations of anti-competitive behavior by Apple.
In recent years, the popularity of audiobooks has increased dramatically. Technology companies are scrambling for a foothold. Last year saw a 25% increase in sales, which brought in over $1.5bn. According to industry insiders, the global market could be worth more than $35bn in 2030.
Apple had planned to launch the project by mid-November but was delayed by layoffs at Meta, chaos surrounding Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter and delays in launching the project.
The company’s Books app allows you to search for “AI narration”. This will reveal the list of works that are included in the scheme.
Apple has been in contact with independent publishers over the past months to offer potential partners. Some of these publishers are located in Canada, but not all have agreed.
Apple, which was at the time not identified as the company behind the technology, would pay for production costs and authors would be paid royalties.
The project required publishers to sign a non-disclosure agreement – a standard in technology fields, but reflective of Apple’s well-known pursuit of secrecy.
Apple’s use of AI to read books could signal a shift in the way major tech companies view audiobooks’ future.
The Guardian spoke with publishers, authors, and literary agents to discuss the potential implications of the strategy for the market.
Others were more skeptical.
“The narrator brings an entirely new level of art to creating audiobooks, and that we think is a powerful thing. They are creating something different than the printed book, but it adds value as an artwork form,” David Caron, co-producer at Canada’s largest audiobook publisher, said.