Apple Launches Audiobooks Voiced by Digital Narrators

Leyland Cecco, the Guardian:

Apple has quietly launched a catalogue of books narrated by artificial intelligence in a move that may mark the beginning of the end for human narrators. The strategy marks 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 behaviour.


On the company’s Books app, searching for “AI narration” reveals the catalogue of works included in the scheme, which are described as being “narrated by digital voice based on a human narrator”.

Apple says it is starting with fiction and romance titles and, of course, in English only.

In addition to the examples on Apple’s website, I listened to a random selection of previews in Apple Books. They are good and often convincing. But I do not think this is what listeners ought to receive when they spend real money on an audiobook. These voices are only a little better than Apple’s screen reading voices, available in each platform’s Accessibility preferences. “Better than nothing” is not the most compelling argument for me, but I suppose it is inevitable; Google has offered a similar service since last year.