As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to transform various industries, audio book narrators have begun to feel the impact. With the ability to create human-sounding recordings at a faster pace and lower cost, AI-generated audio books have started to replace the services of human narrators. As a result, many voice actors have reported a significant drop in business.

The Impact of AI on the Audio Book Industry

Tanya Eby, a professional narrator and voice actor for 20 years, has seen her workload decrease by half over the past six months. Many of her colleagues have reported similar declines. While other factors may be at play, Eby believes AI is affecting the industry. Thousands of audio books currently in circulation use “voices” generated from a databank, and some companies use voices found in databases without paying for them, which has created a gray area in the industry.

The Emergence of AI-Generated Audio Books

DeepZen, a London-based company, offers rates that can cut the cost of producing an audio book to one-fourth or less than that of a traditional project. The company draws from a database created by recording the voices of several actors who were asked to speak in a variety of emotional registers. Speechki, a Texas-based start-up, uses both its own recordings and voices from existing databanks. However, both companies only use voices after a contract has been signed covering usage rights.

The Future of AI-Generated Audio Books

The five largest US publishing houses have not yet commented on the use of AI-generated audio books. However, several traditional publishers are already using generative AI, which can create texts, images, videos, and voices from existing content without human intervention. Apple and Google are also pursuing the business of digitally narrated audio books. While companies are hopeful that synthetic narration will democratize the industry and make it more accessible, some professionals fear that machine-generated recordings lack emotional connectivity and may replace human narrators entirely.

As the audio book industry adapts to the impact of AI-generated content, human narrators are losing business. While companies are hopeful that synthetic narration will democratize the industry and make it more accessible, professionals in the industry are concerned about the impact on the quality of narration and emotional connectivity. Companies need to be transparent about their use of AI-generated content to ensure consumers know what they are listening to. As the industry continues to evolve, it remains to be seen how AI will impact the future of audio books.


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