Here comes a game changer in self-publishing. Ebook to audiobook production using AI or digital narration is starting.
While it’s early days yet, Apple and Google are now offering AI (artificial intelligence) narration for ebooks.
For self-publishing authors, it will make a massive difference in how they publish their books.
The big question is if or when Amazon KDP will follow.
Ebook to an audiobook is more than text-to-voice
Almost any device you use to read ebooks can read text aloud.
You can often find a way by using the accessibility features of a computer, phone, or tablet.
But digital or AI narration is much more advanced than these tools.
With simple text-to-speech tools, there are lots of problems with pronunciation, especially with elements like acronyms.
A simple example is LOL, often pronounced lorl or lohl.
AI can learn or be trained to correct simple issues such as this.
But the big deal will be the range of narrators’ voices and options that should become available for different genres of books.
We have all read about how AI writing tools are changing everything.
Well, for authors, AI narration will be a massive game changer.
It’s not difficult to imagine that publishing an ebook and an audiobook will soon be a straightforward process.
Your new narrator – Apple Books
By Apple standards, its launch of digital narration was very low-key.
The announcement appeared on Apple without any fanfare.
But within it are examples of ebooks available with the new audiobook option.
You can see that the book above notes that Apple Books narrate the book.
A handful of books are available on the Apple Books store with the same option.
You have the option to read or listen to the book.
I’m sure you noticed the price of the two books above.
I can’t verify that the audio version is also $3.00, but it looks likely.
Apple’s announcement makes it clear that this will be available for independent and self-publishing authors.
Authors can choose to use Draft2Digital or Ingram CoreSource to take advantage of the new technology.
It is a big deal because, up until now, producing an audiobook has been time-consuming and expensive.
Auto-narrated books with Google Play
Google offers a few more options than Apple.
Auto-narration is available for authors publishing in English, Spanish, French, and German.
It offers over fifty narrator options, including various language, accent, and gender combinations.
Currently, the option to publish an existing or new ebook in audiobook is free.
But Google says, for a limited time, in its FAQs.
What about an ebook to an audiobook service with Amazon?
Amazon owns Audible, which has the biggest market share for audiobooks.
For now, Amazon doesn’t offer AI narration for ebooks, and it’s no surprise.
To produce an audiobook for Audible, you either need a publisher or use ACX, an Amazon marketplace for authors to connect with narrators.
It works on a revenue split between the author or publisher and a narrator.
At present, Audible is probably very profitable for Amazon with its subscription service.
But nothing is forever.
It very much depends on what the quality and the price of ebooks narrated by AI will be.
However, I’m certain that Amazon is aware of, or probably already has, the AI technology to quickly turn an ebook into an audio file.
For now, though, I wouldn’t expect Amazon to offer anything along these lines for authors using Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing.
Lots of questions, but few answers
Yes, Apple and Google are dipping their toes into the water with this technology.
My immediate reaction was to wonder about the quality of digital narration compared to human narration.
Not many books are available as yet. But I have to say that a handful of previews I listened to were much better than I had expected.
With AI technology progressing so fast, inevitably, the quality can only improve.
The other question is about money. How much will it cost, and how will it affect the price of ebooks and audiobooks?
As a rule of thumb, ebooks are usually two or three dollars, while audiobooks are around fifteen dollars.
Right now, Apple and Google are offering the service for free.
It’s also noticeable that the few books on Apple Books that are available with audio are at an ebook price.
If this holds true, it could create a lot of disruption.
Will it become the new standard that when you self-publish an ebook, you get an audiobook version as well?
What will happen to existing books?
My publisher has published six of my books as audiobooks on Audible and Apple Books.
They range in price from twelve to seventeen dollars but are available to Audible subscribers.
I have to wonder what will become of them in the near future if they have to compete against cheaper AI-narrated books.
It’s far too soon to tell, but change is definitely coming.
Perhaps Apple and Google see this as an opportunity to take on Amazon and Audible with much cheaper audiobooks.
The one certainty is that ebooks, and perhaps the epub format, will be the base from which the new technology will work.
Yes, it’s early days, but for self-publishing authors, AI narration could be a new and cost-effective opportunity.
Related Reading: Can You Publish A Kindle Ebook In Color?