As the world anticipates the disruptive impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on various aspects of life, professionals in the audiobook industry are already witnessing significant transformations.
AI technology can produce human-like recordings at a rapid pace, potentially reducing the need for human voice actors who have long made a living from their vocal talents. This show how AI is taking away business.
Many voice actors are experiencing a sharp decline in business opportunities. Tanya Eby, a professional narrator and full-time voice actor with two decades of experience has observed her workload diminish by half in the past six months. Her bookings now only extend until June, whereas they would continue until August in an average year. Similar declines have been reported by many of her colleagues.
While other factors may contribute to this decline, Eby believes AI and Robotics will likely play a significant role. As both are high in demand.
Currently, there is no labeling system to differentiate AI-assisted recordings from traditional ones. However, professionals estimate that thousands of audiobooks utilize ‘voices’ generated from extensive databases.
DeepZen, a cutting-edge London-based company, offers rates that drastically reduce the cost of producing an audiobook to as little as one-fourth of a traditional project. They have developed a database by recording the voices of multiple actors, who were instructed to speak in various emotional registers.
DeepZen CEO Kamis Taylan emphasized that they pay for the recordings and sign license agreements for each voice used, providing royalties to actors involved. However, not all companies adhere to such ethical practices.
Eby warns of the emergence of new companies that exploit voices found in databases without proper compensation, exploiting the legal grey area.
Speechki, a Texas-based start-up, combines its recordings with voices from existing databases only after signing contracts that cover usage rights. Several traditional publishers also utilize generative AI to create texts, images, videos, and voices using existing content without human intervention.
While the five largest US publishing houses did not comment on this issue, professionals in the field believe that a future coexistence is possible between human performances and text-to-speech generated content.
Audible, a prominent American audiobook subsidiary of Amazon, states that professional narration remains integral to the listening experience but acknowledges the potential for text-to-speech technology to improve and coexist with human performances.
As the AI industry continues to develop rapidly, major US technology companies are actively exploring the lucrative business of digitally narrated audiobooks, further emphasizing the growing significance of AI in the field.