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Insider January 5, 2023 — Audiobook wars!

Plus, Shameless Acquisition Target achieves its main goal.

It’s a short one today since we are busy prepping for our next Hot Pod Summit (more on that next week)! For now, a look at Apple’s latest audiobook play and Shameless Acquisition Target’s big sale.

Apple introduces AI narration for audiobooks

This could be a real game-changer for the DIY audiobook industry. Apple quietly launched a new feature that will allow authors in certain genres to convert their ebooks into audiobooks using the company’s text-to-speech tool. The goal, according to the website, is to “empower” indie authors and publishers. It also appears to be a direct response to competitors like Audible and Spotify.

The process for making audiobooks by major publishers is pretty straightforward (i.e., putting a lot of money into high-value production, with either the author or a well-established voice artist doing the narration). But for independent creators, professional narration can be cost-prohibitive. With Apple’s new feature, authors of romance, literary, historical, and women’s fiction can convert their titles into audiobooks using one of four voices (which sound suspiciously good in Apple’s previews). The books have to be in English, and sci-fi, mystery, fantasy, and thrillers are excluded for now. The AI audiobooks are only distributed on Apple Books and to public and academic libraries (meaning, you can’t hear an Apple AI-narrated audiobook on Spotify or Audible). Plus, in order to use the service, authors have to use one of Apple’s preferred distribution partners: Draft2Digital and Ingram CoreSource.

Notably, self-distribution platform Findaway is not a preferred partner, perhaps because it was purchased by Spotify last year. Spotify expanded into audiobooks betting that it could become the next big creator industry. Currently, it operates on an a la carte purchase basis like Apple Books but has run into the wall of Apple’s in-app purchase rules. And although Findaway allows creators to distribute their own audiobook recordings and has a marketplace connecting authors with voice-over artists, it does not appear to have text-to-speech AI capability. Meanwhile, Audible, which is easily the biggest audiobook platform, has a rule that audiobooks must be narrated by a human.

Personally, I am very into the competition between these companies to make audiobooks better. I am still a loyal Audible user because I love being able to flip between my audio and ebook, but I could foresee switching if there ends up being a better product on the market. I don’t think we are there yet, but it feels like the pressure is on in the space in a way it hasn’t been before.

Gilded Audio buys RSS feed of Shameless Acquisition Target

Laura Mayer has already won industry love for her podcast about podcasting, Shameless Acquisition Target, and now she has achieved her more explicit goal of being acquired. Mayer sold the RSS feed for the podcast to Gilded Audio for $18,000 and a bonus $2,000 for the Sean Casey Animal Rescue. In her final episode of the show, Mayer notes that the underlying IP for the podcast is still up for grabs. In the meantime, Mayer has accepted a position as the executive producer of podcast programming at ABC Audio.

That’s all for now. See you tomorrow!