13151: SPECIAL: Kindle and AI: Your Thoughts? (And Some Of Mine)

Hey there, hero!

If you haven’t seen the announcement from Amazon that they are going to give Kindle authors the option to have the audiobook versions of their titles read by synthetic voices, well…it’s happened:


And there’s really nothing we can do to stop it. But…

…there are some very big positives that you and I, as voice talent, need to remember about art and writers and voice artists and money and more.

I also want to know what you have to say, once you’ve watched this episode and read the short announcement at the link above, in the comments below.


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  1. Hey David:

    Thanks for posting this. I tend to agree with you. Will some authors simply click a button and produce their audiobook? Sure. But I believe a majority will understand that only a human voice can provide a *human connection* between their work and the listener. As you alluded to, it’ll be a long time before a computer understands nuanced prose, if ever, much less delivers a performance that makes a human *feel* something.


  2. The one thing no AI will ever be able to do is react to the emotion and nuance of phrase that exists in all prose. How often, as narrators, do we hear ourselves commit an improper inflection or interpretation, and do an immediate retake to fix it? No AI can do that, and we hear the results all the time. Every now and then, in any AI narration, you hear something that immediately reveals the inhuman (and sometimes inhumane!) nature of the narration. Some is a lot better than others, with only a few of these every now and then; and some is really bad–causing cringey reactions almost constantly. While the market may become more competitive among the remaining humans, I think there will always be a market that demands real narrators.

  3. Inevitable, yes. Demoralizing, yes. Debilitating, no.

    We all knew this was coming. We should be grateful that Amazon is jumping into this with both feet, before the technology is ready. One would hope that by doing this it will further put off listeners who crave intimacy and humanity in their entertainment.

    It also brings up one of my big concerns in the production of audiobook: Collaboration. Narrator/producers have been dancing on the head of this pin for ever. I have always felt that the tendency has been to be somewhat curmudgeonly. Perhaps this technology will force us to leverage our humanity.

    Certainly it will allow us to call out the inhumanity in dealing with a machine—there are no adjustments, no nuances, no collaboration with a machine.

    I do not know yet how corrections and pickups will be done, if at all. Perhaps after doing one book, many RHs will throw up their hands in frustration. I believe that most of the books that will be read by machines will be ones we wouldn’t do, anyway.

  4. Thank you, David for your perspective on this.
    I do think that only humans understand the nuances, emotions and infinite interpretations of the written word. I know many authors and playwrights and I know they prefer human actors to bring their stories to life. An AI can never know how it feels to be affected by music or the smell of a flower, holding a baby, or a fond caress. Human actors know this and authors know this; and as long as their are human stories to be told, humans will want humans to tell them.

  5. David – your thoughts were really good to hear and encouraging as I prepare to email my new project’s Right’s Holder. Relationships and connection are 2 things AI won’t be able to surpass we humans at!

  6. Amen! I predict an audiobook world with lots of low-grade content narrated by synthetic voices…

    … alongside the more impactful stories, with heart, intention, and love put into them, proudly marketed as “narrated by a human”—and audiences happily flocking their way.

    In a world where it’s so easy and inexpensive to hire a machine, individuals and businesses that “choose human” will be perceived as operating at a higher level—a cut above the competition.

  7. David,
    You have allayed my fears. When I read the link you posted, I thought that rights holders might jump for the 40% and not have to share with a narrator. I feel better after listening to your podcast. Thank you.

  8. Hi David,

    I must have started to read this and stopped and started a few times. At first, it was upsetting. But more upsetting I think because when announced, the strike was not over and on the verge of going into what seemed to be the final talks.
    After listening to your podcast, it was very comforting in that, even when I write something and re-write there is that protection mode that kicks in as to if I am even going to share this or want to share it for perhaps I only know how the cadence should go. Therefore, I am sure some other authors are feeling the same way, and some I’m sure don’t want a robot voicing their work.

    Inevitable, of course, even when I got this new MacBook Air, it asked if I want the audio turned on. I had it turned on so it can tell me how to navigate, (coming from the PC land) I thought it would be good to try it. Yes, I shut it off and found it annoying, but interesting. When you mentioned some IVR being AI for years, and how some are not that good, it’s helpful to know some companies prefer humans. I know that many times they can not recognize my voice in voice recognition. (or my many voices)

    Thank you for your video helped me to understand more and feel better about the technical advancements. I am interested in learning more about the business in licensing and estates and researching public domain.
    I do wish they waited until the strike was settled before making the announcement, but they may have already been waiting with a pre-planned date.
    Thank you so much again for helping us to navigate through this new world.
    It is very much appreciated.