Will human narration for audiobooks become mostly unnecessary before 2026?

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predicts NO

If we don't restrict this question to English, I see almost no way for this to resolve yes. Even if it is restricted, I'd still hesitantly bet no, but more because of the timeline. 2028 is more what I'd bet.

@Vergissfunktor yes, english only

bought Ṁ100 of NO

AI text narration is already almost indistinguishable from human narration, and I would be very surprised if it didn't surpass parity with humans before 2026.

That being said, I (and probably a significant chunk of other audiobook listeners) would still pay money for audiobooks narrated manually by the author, even if I could generate a free version by cloning the author's voice and running a text-to-voice model on my laptop.

There's something about hearing an author narrating their work themself that's worth at least a couple of bucks. I don't see this demand going away so quickly.

Plus, the writer's strike was damn successful, and I think it's reasonable to expect the same thing happening for audiobook narrators as well.

predicts YES

@RomanHauksson IMO this is true for non-fiction. But for novels, it really helps to have a voice actor. Im confident AI can help with this.

@RomanHauksson you bring up a valid point regarding the unique charm of an author's narration. As AI technologies advance to a stage where they can mimic an author’s voice indistinguishably, listeners will find it hard to distinguish between AI and human narrators . The essence of this market relies on the indistinguishability, which if achieved, could indeed make human narration for audiobooks mostly unnecessary.

@RomanHauksson I use AI voice to listen to a lot of content but find it absolutely delightful to listen to a narration by Stephen Fry for instance. I wanna see how good AI voice cloning is on a voice like his before betting here

@RomanHauksson yeah I'm listening to The Atlas of the Heart and it's read by the author and she does little asides and rereads sentences she thinks are especially important, and just her voice and intonation

bought Ṁ25 of YES

human narration will likely become redundant. I will have Kanye narrate 50 Shades of Grey to me right before bed. It will be epic.

bought Ṁ3 of YES

Given the rise of AI and just how many of the apps and devices we use already use it to imitate human voices (Siri, Alexa, Google, etc), I believe it is likely that audiobooks will also become narrated by AI. According to the article by Butler (2022), AI narration has had great advances since it was first concieved and it is showing exponential improvement (in the sense that time has reduced while improvements have risen). The article mentions that by this year, 2023, AI narration has achieved "Excellent sound quality, indistinguishable from human, excellent pronunciation" (Butler, 2022). It's just a matter of time before one of the big companies (Apple or Amazon, for example) implements AI narration for their audiobook apps.

Butler, S (2022) AI Audiobooks Will Make Human Narrators Obsolete by 2030. https://shawncbutler.com/2022/10/10/ai-audiobooks-make-human-narrators-obsolete/

bought Ṁ10 of NO

According to The Washing Post the AI is already in use for many audiobooks, and big companies like Apple are already benefiting from using computer-generated voices to create and fabricate five different voices/ characters in their audiobooks. The use of the AI in audiobooks has many economic benefits as in order to create a 10 hour audiobook, a person ( narrator) needs roughly 4-5 days to read the book., and they do get paid $225 per hour + $100 editing cost ( if its a big name such as Meryl Streep the price rises).

On the other side big publishing companies such as Penguin, Albatrose & Harper Collins still prefer to pay heavy amounts of money for humans to read the novel, as people identify with emotions, and no matter how well the AI is trained, it can not replicate the emotions and feelings of a book character with a computer-generated voice.

I would like to end this comment with a quote from WP - " (..) AI cannot replace living artists. Human narrators, he says, “bring their distinct selves to the piece. The best ones are loved for the way they handle prose, the variety of voices they provide for different characters in a book, and with some, a mastery of dialects and accents.” " https://www.washingtonpost.com/books/2023/08/17/audiobooks-artificial-intelligence/

As 2026 is approaching very fast (in 2 years) I think we will still have humans recording audiobooks, hence I'm betting NO.