AI-Narrated Audiobooks Now Available in Apple Books

Apple has now launched Apple Books digital narration, offering a new way for publishers to automatically generate high-quality AI-narrated audio from written text.

General Books Feature
The feature, first announced in December via the Apple Books for Authors webpage, allows publishers on the Apple Books platform to opt-in to have their written books converted into a narrated audio form using AI. Samples of the voices developed specifically for the feature are available on the same webpage.

More and more book lovers are listening to audiobooks, yet only a fraction of books are converted to audio — leaving millions of titles unheard. Many authors — especially independent authors and those associated with small publishers — aren't able to create audiobooks due to the cost and complexity of production. Apple Books digital narration makes the creation of audiobooks more accessible to all, helping you meet the growing demand by making more books available for listeners to enjoy.

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 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.

[...]

Digitally narrated titles are a valuable complement to professionally narrated audiobooks, 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.

Apple is offering different AI voices for different genres and the feature is only available for some genres at this time, but more will be added in the future. Apple says that it can take up to one month for an AI-narrated audiobook to be created and approved, suggesting that there is an element of manual review in the process. Publishers are also free to offer a traditional, human-narrated audiobook alongside the AI-narrated version.

As highlighted by The Guardian, the first AI-narrated audiobooks are now available in Apple Books, highlighted by the tag "Narrated by Apple Books."

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Top Rated Comments

till Avatar
20 months ago

high-quality
It's better than simple TTS, but the robot leaks through a lot. It's extremely low-quality compared to any decent human narrator, but I suppose it's better than nothing. I can't imagine anyone paying actual money for this though.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
VampyricGentleman Avatar
20 months ago
Whilst I have no interest in it, because I have a huge Kindle Library, I prefer my audio books narrated by a human, purely because I often wonder what the narrator when not the author really thinks of the book they are reading.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kalsta Avatar
20 months ago
Just listened to a few samples. They sound more-or-less real, but impassive.

Wake me when they offer some non-American accents.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
captainorange Avatar
20 months ago

('https://www.macrumors.com/2023/01/05/ai-narrated-audiobooks-now-available/')

Apple has now launched Apple Books digital narration, offering a new way for publishers to automatically generate high-quality AI-narrated audio from written text.



The feature, first announced in December ('https://authors.apple.com/support/4519-digital-narration-audiobooks') via the Apple Books for Authors webpage, allows publishers on the Apple Books platform to opt-in to have their written books converted into a narrated audio form using AI. Samples of the voices developed specifically for the feature are available on the same webpage ('https://authors.apple.com/support/4519-digital-narration-audiobooks').Apple is offering different AI voices for different genres and the feature is only available for some genres at this time, but more will be added in the future. Apple says that it can take up to one month for an AI-narrated audiobook to be created and approved, suggesting that there is an element of manual review in the process. Publishers are also free to offer a traditional, human-narrated audiobook alongside the AI-narrated version.

As highlighted by The Guardian ('https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2023/jan/04/apple-artificial-intelligence-ai-audiobooks'), the first AI-narrated audiobooks are now available in Apple Books, highlighted by the tag "Narrated by Apple Books."

Article Link: AI-Narrated Audiobooks Now Available in Apple Books ('https://www.macrumors.com/2023/01/05/ai-narrated-audiobooks-now-available/')
I'm a storyteller and children's entertainer. These voices are an upgrade to be sure and I am excited about how much better these sound than a couple of years ago, but they are still limited to a competent 'neutral' reading. A neutral read can be good for news and it is also the kind of thing I might prepare for myself when I am learning a new story and don't want to accidentally encode all my decisions about how to inflect while I learn the relevant text of the story. Even useful in an audio book context when I don't want another person interpreting the author's text for me.

Good reading for fiction--or any form of persuasive speaking--involves not just properly formed words, but context. It is an interpretation and a performance. There are choices about how to cue your listener about how to feel about what you say. The AI is not (yet) at the point where it can comprehend any but perhaps the most basic proximity in terms of relationships to the words--never mind a passive aggressive insult, a clever allusion to a famous work, or an ironic turn of phrase that a reader might recognize from a previous chapter or two books ago in the series.

Until there is some form of comprehension and an algorithmic response that communicates to a listener that the speaker actually understands what is being read and is making interpretive choices, that inflection will be absent or provided by a human who can adjust the AI voice based on context (probably more work than hiring a good performer).

As I said above, there are plenty of use cases for AI reading right now, but a good dramatic performance isn't currently one of them.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
dysamoria Avatar
20 months ago

I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but sometimes the voice actors just don't do it for me. Having multiple AI voices to pick as alternatives would be an interesting development. But I'm curious how well they compare dramatically.

Curious, though: "mysteries and thrillers, and science fiction and fantasy are not currently supported" Apparently the voices are trained by genre, so they must be based on existing audiobooks? I hope the narrators get compensation for that.
Vocabulary. There’s no way specialized vocabulary and fictional words (invented names for people and places, etc.) will work without a lot more handholding and custom “training”.

Hell, Siri constantly speaks badly just with common language (I’ve been finding it can’t seem to connect clauses with multiple people named, to other clauses with “and” correctly; one of my recent dictated iMessage replies wouldn’t even register as having happened at all, three times in a row, even though I watched it display on screen as I spoke it the second & third times, as Siri just erased it and asked again & again if I wanted to reply).

There is no artificial intelligence. There are cleverly-written algorithms that seem amazing under very limited contexts, but then fail to work in endless other contexts/circumstances because they’re not capable of thinking. The computer industry has brought us Artificial Stupidity, not AI.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
danbalsh Avatar
20 months ago
Wow, those AI samples are incredible!
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)