the death of the narrator? Apple unveils a set of audiobooks equipped with artificial intelligence voice | an Apple

Apple quietly Launch a book catalog It is narrated by artificial intelligence in a move that could be the beginning of the end for human narrators. The strategy is an attempt to upend the lucrative and fast-growing audiobook market — but it also promises to intensify scrutiny over allegations of Apple’s anti-competitive behavior.

The audiobook market has exploded in popularity in recent years, as tech companies seek to gain a foothold. sales last year jump 25%, bringing in more than $1.5 billion. Industry insiders believe that the global market could be worth more than $35 billion by 2030.

Apple was set to launch the project in mid-November, but delayed it as the Meta layoffs and the chaos surrounding Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has cast a dark cloud over the tech sector.

In the company’s Books app, a search for “artificial intelligence narration” reveals the catalog of works included in the scheme, which are described as being “narrated in a digital voice based on a human narrator”.

In recent months, Apple has approached independent publishers as potential partners, including some in the Canadian market, but not everyone has agreed to take part.

The authors were told that Apple—which at the time was not named as the company behind the technology—would bear production costs and the book would receive royalties from sales.

Publishers involved in the project were required to sign non-disclosure agreements — common in technology — but also reflective of Apple’s notorious quest for secrecy.

Apple’s development of AI for book narration could mark a major shift in how big tech companies see the future of audiobooks.

Publishers, authors and literary agents who spoke to the Guardian said the strategy, if successful, could have significant market implications.

However, others were skeptical.

“The narrator brings a whole new scope of artistry to the audiobook creation, and we think that’s a powerful thing. They create something different from a print book, but one that adds value as an art form,” said David Caron, co-producer at Canada’s largest publisher of audiobooks.

“When you have great writing and really talented storytelling, you’re creating something special. That’s worth investing in.”

Prior to the launch, a Canadian literary agent told the Guardian that she did not see the value from a literary or client perspective.

“Companies see the audiobook market and that there’s money to be made. They want to make the content. But that’s it. It’s not what customers want to listen to. There’s a lot of value in storytelling and storytelling,” said Carly Waters.

While there is potential for backlash from professional voice actors, authors themselves are increasingly being asked to narrate their books. There is a financial incentive for writers, in both upfront payments and expanded availability for their work.

But producing an audiobook with a human voice can take weeks and can cost publishers thousands of dollars. The lure of AI promises to cut costs dramatically.

However, computer-generated sounds have long struggled to hold listeners’ attention for long periods of time, overpowering ‘a strange valley’ The influence of synthetic human speech. Human intonation and inflection are notoriously difficult to predict and repeat.

For years, Apple has sold books and audiobooks through the Books app, and the company is rumored to be interested in developing its own audiobook service and transitioning from seller to producer.

But the move is a direct shot at its competitor, Amazon, with Apple List the benefits of its own system compared to Kindle direct publishing.

Apple and Amazon — which owns Audible, the market leader for audiobooks — previously indicated they were exploring AI narration technology, but Google was the most popular about its efforts and breakthroughs.

Even before Apple’s entry, the battle for control of the audiobook market renewed existing differences between the major players. In recent months, Spotify, which has announced plans to bring 300,000 audiobooks to customers, has been releasing They clashed bitterly with Apple over App Store policies after its app was rejected three times.

On a newly launched site It’s time to play fairIn defense of its position, Spotify said that Apple’s “cumbersome” process for purchasing audiobooks “makes it difficult to find your next favorite author or book”.

It claims that Apple’s policies mean that “in addition to consumers being harmed, authors and publishers are also being punished”.

Apple justified the refusal by saying that the way Spotify delivers audiobooks violates rules about online purchases and how it communicates with customers.

While Apple already sells audiobooks, the latest move is likely to raise more questions about its anti-competitive behaviour. Lawmakers in Europe and the United States have brought increased scrutiny to the company in the wake of allegations that Apple is curbing competition.

Apple collects a 30% fee on all services and product sales through its App Store, and a recent antitrust lawsuit involving Epic Games has highlighted the strict regulations surrounding the App Store, as well as its massive profitability.

Apple recently divested $78.13 billion from its high-margin services business, which includes sales from apps, as well as music, gaming and streaming services.

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