AI Use in Audiobooks: How it Takes Away from the Medium and What You Can Do to Fight Back

article written by Amelie Farrell

Over the past few years, the audiobook market has been booming. Data from Acumen Research and Consulting reveals that the market is expected to reach $33.5 billion by 2030, up from about $4.2 billion in 2021. Unsurprisingly, this growth hasn’t escaped the attention of tech companies and the cloying grasp of artificial intelligence (AI).

This article will explore the negative repercussions of AI-generated audiobook narration and some ways listeners can champion the irreplaceable craft of professional narrators, ensuring the art of storytelling remains firmly in human hands and voices.

The drawbacks of AI-generated audiobook narration

The primary argument often wielded by proponents of AI programs such as DALL-E and ChatGPT is their ability to cheaply and quickly churn out creative content. Sadly, the use of generative AI has bled into the world of audiobook narration. As a result, many voice actors and professional narrators have been experiencing a decline in business. For Tanya Eby, a full-time voice actor who has been working in the industry for 20 years, her workload has been cut in half — a worrying trend that rings true for many of her colleagues.

Even narrators attempting to ride the generative AI wave have not necessarily been successful at doing so. Despite companies like DeepZen somewhat fairly compensating voice actors by way of licensing agreements, paid recordings, and royalties, an increasing number of newer platforms have been exploiting this gray area. They do this by taking multiple people’s voices, combining them, and then creating a separate voice that they claim belongs to nobody.

An article in the Wall Street Journal found that out of over 5,000 listeners, 64% could distinguish when an audio sample was generated with AI. This is perhaps due to the lack of genuine emotion and nuanced artistry otherwise present in human narrations. There’s an intimacy in the voice of a real narrator that transcends mere words – an artistry that AI, for all its algorithms, struggles to replicate.

What you can do to fight back

Having said that, avid listeners need to recognize and support authentic narrators who infuse stories with life. Fortunately, subscription-based digital libraries now give you instant access to endless, high-quality audiobook titles ranging from mystery, self-help, romance, science fiction, politics, and philosophy, all for roughly the price of a single paperback book per month. Most notably, audiobooks in Everand’s digital library rightfully credit its human narrators so listeners can ensure that they’re supporting real people. Bestsellers like Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, for instance, is narrated by Jeremy Irons, while Tom Pile narrates Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.

As for audiobook narrators, opt to work with companies prioritizing you and your art over adopting AI technology. Seasoned narrator Hillary Huber who has recorded over 700 books, recommends forging relationships with reputable publishers and production companies that recognize the value of human narrators. For instance, Penguin Random House openly condemns using narrator voices to train AI for audiobooks, considering it copyright infringement. Moreover, the company has ties with SAG-AFTRA, a union of which audiobook narrators are a part, to mentor voice actors, and is a staunch supporter of the fight against AI.

Human narrators bring stories to life with a touch of emotion and depth that AI can’t quite match. Choosing their work ensures we keep the genuine connection and artistry alive in our literary adventures. And in doing so, we preserve the authenticity that makes audiobooks a uniquely enriching experience.

All my posts are written without AI. Feel free to download and copy this image to support the fight against AI!

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