- Apple quietly launched dozens of audiobooks narrated by AI-generated digital voices.
- The voices, “Jackson” and “Madison” narrate dozens of audiobook titles on the Books app.
- Critics say the voices lack nuances that humans have and aren’t “what customers want to listen to.”
Apple quietly launched dozens of new audiobook titles featuring AI-generated digital voices called “Jackson” and “Madison,” replacing human storytellers in a move critics say misses the point of what customers look for in listening to a story instead of reading one themselves.
According to a statement released by Apple, the digital voices are “natural sounding” and “based on a human narrator.” But some of the phrases in the books used awkward pronunciations and had an emotionless affect that Ars Electronica said in a review was not a replacement for the passionate performances by human readers in some audiobook recordings.
“Companies see the audiobooks market and that there’s money to be made,” Carly Watters, a Canadian literary agent, told The Guardian. “They want to make content. But that’s all it is. It’s not what customers want to listen to. There’s so much value in the narration and the storytelling, “
The swap to digitally-created voices has critics concerned that the innovation, while potentially cutting costs for the company and allowing for faster content creation, takes cost-saving too far, at the expense of the listener experience.
“The narrator brings a whole new range of art in creating audiobook, and we believe that’s a powerful thing. They’re creating something that is different from the print book, but that adds value as an art form,” David Caron, a co-producer at Canada’s largest audiobook publisher, told The Guardian. “When you have really great writing and really talented narration, you’re coming up with something special. That’s worth investing in.”
Representatives for Apple did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.