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    Nope, I do not like these AI audiobook narrators one bit.

    Jessie Gaynor

    January 6, 2023, 12:02pm

    Because AI is apparently just like us, it seems to have romanticized the creative fields. So instead of, say, figuring out how to help me dispute denied insurance claims, it’s more interested in writing children’s books, getting into poetry, and now… narrating audiobooks. Yesterday, The Verge reported that Apple Books has launched a new “digital narration” feature in order to “mak[e] ‘the creation of audiobooks more accessible to all,’ by reducing ‘the cost and complexity’ of producing them for authors and publishers.”

    On one hand, people rely on audiobooks for any number of reasons, including visual impairment, and I’m all for making them more accessible. On the other hand… I really hate these two AI narrators!

    Their names are Madison and Jackson, and so far they’re only available for romance and fiction titles, but fear not—Helena and Mitchell will be narrating nonfiction soon (oh, to have been a fly on the wall of that naming focus group). Jackson sounds like a pretty standard—if maddening—customer service line voice. I can imagine him saying Okay, it sounds like you have a question about your internet service. You can say “outage,” “pay bill,” “fuck off Comcast,” or “representative.” Which isn’t romantic to me, but human sexuality is a vast spectrum!

    Madison, on the other hand, sounds a little like a female version of Aiden Gillen playing American on The Wire (or Cary Elwes playing American in anything)—it’s just slightly off, in a way that you can never entirely ignore.

    At least audiobook narrators—like poets and children’s book illustrators—can take heart in the fact that AI voices have nothing on them. (Unless Cary Elwes is contracted to narrate any Cormac McCarthy novels, in which case… your move, Jackson).

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