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Apple says it is committed to book narrators, expands AI reading anyway

Apple has detailed how its AI-powered digital narration for books will expand, but says it is "committed to celebrating" human-read audiobooks too.

In early January 2023, Apple Books very quietly release myriad audiobooks with full narration — and not one single narrator. Instead of actors reading the books, the audio was created entirely through AI.

Now in a new support document intended to help authors use this new capability of Apple Books, Apple stresses that it's not intended to get rid of actors. Instead, it's in order to increase the number of audiobooks available.

"More and more book lovers are listening to audiobooks, yet only a fraction of books are converted to audio — leaving millions of titles unheard," says Apple. "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," it continues, "helping you meet the growing demand by making more books available for listeners to enjoy."

"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," notes Apple. "Apple Books remains committed to celebrating and showcasing the magic of human narration and will continue to grow the human-narrated audiobook catalog."

This is just the beginning

Apple's support document goes on to say that there are currently two AI-generated voices. An adult woman's voice is called Madison, while the adult man's is Jackson, and both are speaking US English.

They are both "created and optimized for specific genres," too, and initially that means that the effort is starting with fiction and romance. Via two specific publishing partners — Draft2Digital and Ingram CoreSource, Apple is now accepting ebooks for the AI-read program in only these genres, but says this is just the beginning.

"Our nonfiction and self-development narration program is kicking off and will be available more widely in the future," it says.