Audiobook and AI: Madison, the new voice of Apple Books

By searching the Apple Books application for audio books, and specifying Apple Books, we now come across a selection of titles read by Madison. It is none other than a digital voice whose tone is inspired by human narration.

Over the past few months, Apple approached independent publishers, to offer them potential partnerships. The firm has not confined itself to the American market, but has also made contact with certain players in Canada. However, not all agreed to participate.

For the moment, the voice narrates books exclusively in English. It doesn’t appear that the company at the apple offers an artificial narrator in another language at present. A more than juicy gateway for Apple in view of the real audiobook industry boom. The latter would have experienced a sales growth of 25% in one year, according to the Guardian.

The project was supposed to see the light of day in mid-November 2022, but was pushed back, following massive layoffs at Meta, as well as the chaos surrounding Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter. The authors and publishers involved were initially unaware of the name of the company behind the technology.

Above all, it had to assume the production costs while paying the royalties on the sales to the writers. The publishers subsequently had to sign non-disclosure agreements. Publishers, authors and literary agents spoke to the Guardian, and the majority agreed on the significant market implications of such a strategy, should it prove successful.

The question then arises about the future of the actors whose voice came to punctuate the reading of the audio books. If the experience had already proven itself in dubbing the voices of certain characters in video games, it remains to be seen whether readers will be won over by more robotic and monotonous intonations than a flesh and blood narrator.

The art of telling stories

For David Caron, co-producer at Canada’s largest audiobook publisher: ” The narrator brings a whole new art dimension in the creation of audiobooks, and we think that’s a powerful thing. They create something different from the printed book, but which adds value.“And to continue:”When you have virtuoso writing paired with truly talented storytelling, you have a special product. It is worth investing.»

Carly Watter, Canadian literary agent also questions the satisfaction of client expectations: “Companies are seeing the audiobook market and the financial windfall it represents. But that’s all. That’s not what customers want to listen to. There is so much value in storytelling and storytelling.»

If such technology endangers the future of professional voice actors, the authors themselves are increasingly encouraged to tell their own book. Either way, producing an audiobook from a human voice can take weeks and cost publishers thousands of dollars, where a AI significantly reduces costs.

READ: AI, audiobook and reading: some thoughts on the future

Apple isn’t the only company exploring this technology. Its great rival Amazon had also indicated that it was positioning itself on the AI-powered storytelling market without forgetting Google Play which already offers a catalog of voices and narrators. For self-narrated audiobooks, the catalog includes multiple regional accents for works in English, Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese.

File – Artificial intelligence at the service of books and reading

Photo credits: Illustration – HS You (CC BY-ND 2.0)

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Audiobook and AI: Madison, the new voice of Apple Books

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